The Academy of Medical Sciences has published a new five year vision and strategy, setting out how they will support scientists at key stages of their career, influence policy to improve health and wealth, and facilitate conversation within and outside the medical research community. We asked policy intern and PhD student Helen Moore to tell us more about the Academy’s plans.
This summer I spent three months as an intern at the Academy of Medical Sciences. The time I spent there gave me a fantastic insight into the inner workings of medical science policy in the UK as well as being a refreshing break from the lab bench.
Readers of this blog will know that the Academy’s goals align closely with those of the AMRC. They both seek to advance medical science in order to benefit patients and healthcare and they often convene to write joint responses to consultations, like the current response to the NHS Commissioning Board draft mandate that I worked on recently during my time as an intern.
I arrived at the Academy at a time of renewed focus; they have recently elected a new President, Professor Sir John Tooke PMedSci, which sparked an update of the organisations vision and strategy. His views are that the Academy should remain fresh and future focused and not too ‘establishment’. The new strategy reflects the work going on behind the scenes to ensure the future excellence of UK medical science and was built on this view alongside the opinions of the Fellows, stakeholders and Academy staff for what they think their future role ought to be. As a PhD student, I can relate to the necessity to stop and reflect on the bigger picture that has been a part of producing this strategy report.
The Academy’s vision is summed up simply: “to improve health through research”
The strategy outlines six objectives. In each of these the Academy already has a good track record to build upon:
1. Promoting excellence
One might think that this should be a given, but it’s always worth reiterating the key role that the UK plays in bringing excellence to the field of medical research, and the importance of the awareness of this. Recognising and promoting excellence in medical sciences underpins all of the Academy’s work. Each Fellow is elected based on their contribution to excellence in medical science. The Academy is also committed to recognising achievements through awards and named lectures.
2. Influencing policy to improve health and wealth
The policy team at the Academy engage actively with current issues in medical research as well as looking to the horizon for the next major challenges to health and the economy in the UK. I’ve worked mostly with this team, and I was strongly impressed with how effectively they partner with other bodies to engage with policymakers, the AMRC being one of the groups I often met with. The policy team also produce influential reports and host high-level meetings. For example, I was lucky enough to be a fly on the wall for a roundtable discussion on research in the new public health system with Dr Tom Frieden, Director of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
3. Nurturing the next generation of medical researchers
The Academy has a dedicated team to support the careers of medical researchers, which are vital for the future excellence in medical research. Catching medics early, the Academy’s INSPIRE programme enables universities to encourage medical students to pursue a career in research. The Academy also offers regional outreach activities for all clinical academic trainees embarking on research. Later on in their career, post-doctoral clinical academic trainees can be part of a one-to-one mentoring scheme and clinical lecturers can apply for Starter Grants to help get their first research project off the ground.
4. Linking academia, industry and the NHS
The Academy is in a choice position to engage with many of the players in the UK Life Sciences community. Through policy activities and networking opportunities they are able to connect researchers, research funders and users from across government, academia, industry, the charity sector and the NHS. During this tough economic climate, forging strong links between these groups will allow the research ecosystem to reach its full potential. I saw this in action when I helped with Academy activities aimed at gauging reactions from UK academic researchers, funders, and regulators, to the new proposals for the EU Clinical Trials Regulation.
5. Seizing international opportunities
As a researcher that has worked abroad I’ve observed how science is increasingly an international endeavour. One way the Academy helps researchers cross borders is the Daniel Turnberg Travel Fellowship Scheme, an initiative set up to promote collaboration between the UK and Middle East. The Academy also works towards influencing European policy (which I’ve now learnt is very complex!) and responding to global health problems (last year they brought 100 senior figures from 21 countries together to produce an international partnerships report)
6. Encouraging dialogue about medical science
The Academy successfully engages with many stakeholders in the medical research sector: policymakers, funders, and the public. In my PhD I’ve gained fresh perspective on my work through the public engagement activities I’ve been involved with. Dialogue is so important for advancing research and the dialogue at the Academy is only set to increase. Watch out for the Academy’s new website.
The Academy is well placed to build upon its past successes and expand to answer the needs of the medical research community. Excellence is a part of every layer of the organisation: the Fellows, staff, funders, partnerships, and even the premises.
There is so much going on at the Academy and as an intern I have been privileged to be a small part of it. The MRC-funded internship at the Academy has allowed me to look behind the scenes of lab research into the world of science policy.
Interning at the Academy of Medical Sciences has enabled me to see the mechanisms behind advocating medical research and equipping researchers to tackle the major challenges in medical health.
I wish them all the best with fulfilling their vision.
Helen spent three months at the Academy of Medical Sciences on an MRC-funded policy internship. She is currently studying light sensitivity and circadian rhythms (body clock) of the zebrafish brain on an MRC-funded PhD studentship. She also writes a blog about body clocks: www.sleeplessdays.co.uk