Effects of Public and Charitable Research Funding

Continuing concern about the UK fiscal deficit makes it likely that government funding of health and medical research will remain under scrutiny. This will include both return on investment, in economic and health status terms, and the interplay between government and other sources of funding for medical research, specifically charitable funding.

Released today is an OHE study commissioned by Cancer Research UK that explores the interdependence between publicly funded and charity funded medical research. In particular, the study focuses on whether and how changes in the levels of government funding affect private funding for charities and, more broadly, medical research and the UK economy as a whole.

The research included a literature review and an interview programme involving key funders and stakeholders directly involved in the UK medical research system. The focus was on understanding the differences in research activities currently funded, how various stakeholders make funding allocation decisions, and the value of joint funding. In addition, OHE organised and facilitated a workshop that provided an element of peer review.

The study found substantial benefits, both financial and qualitative, from the existence of a diversity of funders for UK medical research. These include:

  • Enabling the conduct of high cost studies that could not be funded otherwise, by sharing costs and risks for research programmes
  • Providing a stable flow of financial support for medical research over the longer term
  • Building a favourable research environment by drawing on the differing skills and know-how of funders
  • Increasing research quality by creating a competitive research environment

Any future reductions in the level of government financial support for medical research are likely to cause disproportionate damage to the ability of charities to raise funds, the report concludes. The research revealed that public spending on medical research is likely to stimulate additional private donations to charities; a cut would have the opposite effect by signalling a decline in the perceived importance of funding for charities and for medical research.

Reductions in the level of government financial support for medical research are likely to have broader negative effects. These are discussed in the report and include, for example, a decline in UK GDP, the possible shifting of the locus of some research to outside the UK, a weakening of the UK’s medical research capacity, and potential harm to standards of care for patients in the UK.

The study recommends the collection or generation of additional UK-specific evidence to fill important gaps in knowledge. This includes how and to what extent public funding of science affects the level of private contribution to UK charities for medical research.

Download Garau, M., Mordoh, A. and Sussex, J. (2011) Exploring the interdependency between public and charitable research. Report for Cancer Research UK. London: Office of Health Economics.

Posted in OHE Consulting, Other Public Policy | Tagged Consulting Reports