Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Medical Research & Non-Standard Funding: Notes from a Seminar

I went along to an excellent PVC's Lunchtime Seminar this afternoon on medical research and non-standard sources of research funding. There were 30-40 others there with me, from the University and beyond (including the NHS), and we heard from four people with different experiences in this area.

Prof Darren Griffin kicked things off by outlining his experience of working with charities, and how this differed from the more conventional Research Council route. In Darren's view, Research Councils had got to the stage whereby the appilcation process was akin to a bureaucratic lottery, and the monitoring of awards could be burdensome. Charities, by contrast, were more interested in flexible partnership. However, one should carefully target which charities to approach:
  • is your research relevant to the stated (and unstated) aims of the charity?
  • are you likely to have results that will fulfil the goals of that charity?
  • do you have personal connections with the charity?
  • what can you do to help promote the charity, by acting as an advocate or directly fundraising for them?
Charity funding varied hugely, and he demonstrated this range by highlighting a number of recent awards at Kent, from £1.7m to £150. It is useful, therefore, to have in mind a 'tariff' so that a charity can get a sense of what can be funded. For instance:
  • £1m would fund a 5 year programme;
  • £300k would fund a 3 year postdoc;
  • £10k would fund 1 year of consumables;
  • £1k would fund reagents;
  • right down to £100 for a micropipette or £50 for a printer.
Prof Bill Gullick and Mary Buchanan then spoke about the work of the Kent Cancer Trust. KCT was established six years ago to bring together clinicians and scientists in the county to develop new treatments based on observed patient need. Mary is Chair of Trustees of the KCT. KCT had provided small amounts of funding that had been effective in enabling research, often at PhD level. One example was £8k for a studentship that enabled a MPhil student to carry on to do a PhD. The student had then raised £5k herself for consumables, and had the potential to have a considerable effect in the fight against cancer.

The final speaker was Alison Coles of the Development Office. She spoke about philanthropic donations, and how she can help in facilitating interactions between faculty and donors. She also highlighted both internal and external matched funding schemes. Interestingly, she noted that whilst a number of academics had come forward to enquire about funding, none had done so for health research. Bill suggested that this is something that those in the audience should remedy.

The session ended with a discussion of some of the issues raised in the talks. If you would like slides from the seminar, do get in touch. Alternatively, if you'd like to find out about the next events in PVC's Lunchtime Seminar series, have a look at the dedicated page here.

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