The collective influence of charities on medical research in the United Kingdom is huge
Medical research is the UK’s most popular charitable cause.
- 40% (£1.6bn+) of all medical research funding comes from charities.
- Charities funded over 17,000 scientists in 2016.
The Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) exists to channel this collective power. It provides a voice for charities and advocates for the impact of charities on medical research. This helps other major players in the medical research ecosystem – the government, pharmaceutical companies and universities – to take note of the power of charities. PCRC became an AMRC member in 2015. Its 143 other members vary in size and scope from the UK’s largest charity, Cancer Research UK, to dozens of small organisations focused on single diseases. As well as offering access to this community, AMRC membership is a hallmark of research excellence; every member abides by its research policies and undergoes peer review audits.
By bringing medical research charities together and advocating for their collective power, the ARMC has been an integral part of a shift in how charities think about their research. It no longer acceptable to give money to a scientist, sit back, and hope for seminal breakthroughs or transformative discoveries to which the funder can stake their claim. Both charities and scientists increasingly recognise by that the collective impact of charity-funded research is hugely important. A research project is not unsuccessful because it did not result in a new medicine. Every piece of medical research has scientists testing hypotheses and sharing their findings. This contributes to a critical mass of knowledge and innovation which is mutually beneficial for every stakeholder – most of all patients.
Now, more than ever, charity funders recognise this, and strive to monitor the immediate effects of their research and track its long-term consequences. To do so, medical research charities – far more than universities and research councils – are moving beyond simply using academic peer reviews to assess research. Instead, charities are seeking to examine the real-world, practical effects of the science they fund, even if its eventual outcome is not a new treatment. To reiterate, simply giving money to scientists and waiting for a one in a million discovery is no longer enough.