Select Committee on Science and Technology Third Report


Conclusions and recommendations


The Committee's inquiry

1.  The Committee recognises that the UK will benefit from a coherent strategy to maximise the health benefits from UK research and broadly endorses the approach taken by Sir David Cooksey in his wide-ranging review of the UK's health research framework. (Paragraph 6)

The scope of the Review

2.  We believe that Sir David was right to exceed his remit and we welcome the broad-ranging nature of the Review. However, we feel that it would have been appropriate to advertise the changes in the terms of reference to attract a broader range of opinions. (Paragraph 8)

3.  Whilst the pharmaceutical sector is clearly of great importance to the UK's health research output, the Committee is concerned that allied health research sectors such as medical engineering and technology, preventive and public health research should not be overlooked. The DTI and DH must ensure that these sectors are represented within both OSCHR and TMFB. (Paragraph 9)

Proposed institutional and funding arrangements

4.  We look forward to the announcement in the Comprehensive Spending Review regarding the Single Fund budget, and expect the current combined budget for the MRC and the NHS R&D function to be at least maintained. (Paragraph 10)

5.  We acknowledge and support the importance of translational and clinical research. However, it is essential that the new proposals do not result in decreased funding for basic research. (Paragraph 11)

6.  We share the concerns submitted in evidence regarding the impact of the proposed institutional arrangements and the possible effects upon the MRC. We are firmly of the view that OSCHR should operate as a light touch organisation that does not complicate the existing successful administrative mechanisms of the MRC. (Paragraph 13)

Health research in the UK

7.  We support the setting of priorities, but we expect OSCHR to ensure that the best research in all fields is funded and that research outside the priorities is adequately supported. We expect performance monitoring to be done without the use of rigid targets. (Paragraph 14)

8.  In setting out its joint research plan for the MRC and the NIHR, OSCHR must ensure that research that would benefit the developing world is part of the overall strategy. We recommend that there be clear mechanisms, structures or representations to ensure that there is adequate advocacy of developing world health research priority needs within OSCHR. (Paragraph 15)

Peer review

9.  We welcome the recognition that peer review should remain the primary tool for assessing the scientific rigour of research proposals funded through both the MRC and the NIHR. (Paragraph 16)

The pharmaceutical sector and a new drug development pathway

10.  We support the principles behind fast-tracking crucial research. However, we remain somewhat sceptical about the ability of the current structures to respond to the demands this would make on them. This is an area in which we will monitor developments. (Paragraph 19)

Implementation

11.  We welcome the initial stages in implementing the Review's recommendations. The Committee will take a close interest in reviewing progress and how the new institutional arrangements will work in practice. (Paragraph 20)




 
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