Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Cancer Research UK


  1.  Cancer Research UK[82] is the world's largest independent cancer research organisation with an annual research spend of over £213 million. Cancer Research UK funds research into all aspects of cancer from exploratory biology to clinical trials of novel and existing drugs as well as population-based studies and prevention research.

  2.  Cancer Research UK funds research through its own institutes in London, Glasgow and Manchester, and through grants to researchers in UK universities and medical schools throughout the UK. In addition, there are a number of Cancer Research UK Units and Clinical Centres in hospitals and medical schools across the UK which are supported both through grants and by direct employment of the staff by the charity.

  3.  As a result of this funding structure, Cancer Research UK works in partnership with individual higher education institutions, particularly those that host Cancer Research UK Units and Institutes. The most common pattern is for tenured staff at institutions to hold research grants, which then support the direct costs of the research in the laboratory. In some cases Cancer Research UK will meet the full salary costs of the principal investigator, who, in a few cases, will be an employee of the charity but based in the higher education institution. We have also made contributions to a number of infrastructure projects, including the recent part-funding of new laboratories in Manchester, Glasgow and Bradford.


  4.  Investment in science is an essential component for economic growth. Biomedical research greatly benefits the health and prosperity of the nation. Sustainability should therefore be at the heart of any research funding policy. Government funding for research infrastructure in universities is essential for maintaining and promoting the high standard of scientific research conducted in the UK.

  5.  Cancer Research UK relies on a steady stream of new, high-quality laboratory and clinical researchers, many of whom are trained within the universities and medical schools in the UK. We are committed to promoting career progression for researchers and to encouraging researchers from many disciplines to focus on the problem of cancer.

  6.  Our main priority is to fund research, and as a result we do not have a direct obligation to support either the NHS in its provision of clinical services, or the higher education sector in its provision of undergraduate and graduate teaching. However, we take a long-term view of our research and recognise that the cancer researchers of tomorrow are the enthusiastic and motivated undergraduates in university science and medical departments today.

  7.  It is essential that the departments in which researchers are based continue to have the financial support needed to operate effectively and competitively. Although Cancer Research UK grants do not contribute to the indirect costs of the research, in line with the policy of most medical research charities, our researchers are involved in all aspects of the workings of science departments.

  8.  A strong research infrastructure is essential to train, recruit and retain the best quality staff. It is important to maintain the high level of partnership currently seen in research funding. Cancer Research UK's success relies on ensuring we commission the most talented clinical and laboratory scientists in the business to undertake research and to train the researchers of the future. Government commitment to explicitly link the money it provides for research support in universities to projects funded by charities such as Cancer Research UK has strengthened this partnership and provides additional support to allow our work to continue.


  9.  Many of the research staff funded by Cancer Research UK are involved in teaching in their host university. In addition, Research Fellows whose salaries are paid in full by the charity are encouraged to contribute to their university's wider functions, either through teaching on their department's courses or by training PhD students in their laboratories.

  10.  We strongly believe that undergraduates and graduates should have the opportunity to learn directly during their education and training from the many internationally-recognised researchers that we fund. We believe that this exposure to high-quality science is an important factor that will prompt them to consider a future career in research. In addition, it is often the case that the best teaching is to be found in departments with an active research programme.

  11.  It is disappointing that, due to a lack of research projects available at some university sites, some undergraduates are not given the opportunity to get involved in research during their degree. We believe that all undergraduates should have the opportunity to benefit from hands on experience in research as part of their education.


  12.  Young scientists are particularly vulnerable to the uncertainties of a scientific career. When considering the science provision in universities it is important not to overlook the problems associated with retaining the best scientists in the longer term. We therefore recommend that the Government takes a coordinated approach to developing career structures that attract new scientists into universities and the UK pharmaceutical industry and enable clinical and basic researchers to advance through their careers with some measure of security.

February 2005

82   Registered charity no. 1089464. Back

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