Memorandum submitted by the Association
of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)
The ABPI has been made aware of the concerns
of the Science and Technology Committee, arising from its ongoing
Inquiry into the Research Assessment Exercise, that Panels in
some subjects may have lacked a sufficiently strong representation
from industry, including the pharmaceutical sector.
It should be noted that in drawing up panel
membership for the 2001 RAE, the secretariat of the Higher Education
Funding Council took every effort to seek pharmaceutical industry
representation via the ABPI. The ABPI, in turn, consulted widely
with its member companies on this matter. The ABPI was also consulted
on the HEFCE's 2002 Review of Research, a review which considered
the future management of the RAE. Possible lack of pharmaceutical
industry representation on the panels should not be seen therefore
as a result of a lack of information about the exercise or the
opportunity to participate.
In its contribution to the 2000 Science and
Innovation White Paper, the ABPI commented on the future of the
Research Assessment Exercise and noted that greater efforts were
being made for the 2001 RAE to give credit for collaboration between
academia and industry. Concerns did remain however that this might
not be followed through in practice. The industry agreed at the
time that any assessment of science base activities for HEFCE
purposes would require a wider range of weighted criteria than
used previously, covering not just publication records, but relevance
of quality research, links with teaching and more importantly
the impact and value to customers of research, particularly industry.
The ABPI recommended that the research funding allocation mechanism,
centred on the RAE, should be radically reviewed to ensure long-term
sustainability of research funding, including infrastructure.
In view of the recent outcome of the RAE and the lack of additional
funding for those universities that had achieved high level assessments,
the original concerns of the industry on certain elements of the
The ABPI and representatives from a number of
its member companies have been involved in the last three Research
Assessment Exercises, either as full panel members or observers,
with their nominations being put forward by the ABPI, individual
companies or through the professional bodies (eg RPSGB, Biochemical
Society etc) of which they were members. Messages given to industry
in the earlier RAEs that the nature and level of industry/academic
collaboration would not be a major contributory factor in the
determination of grades may not have been an incentive for industry
participation. This, and the perception of some (but not all)
Panel members and observers from industry of the 1996 RAE, that
little weight was given to their views, may have influenced others
in the sector not to get involved.
The ABPI consulted widely with its membership
to identify possible Panel members for the 2001 RAE. Those who
have had some previous experience of the RAE brought to our attention
the considerable time-consuming nature of the exercise. It was
recognised that the full members of the Panels did a huge amount
of work to assess the quality of research for each institution.
This would have been a very challenging task for someone from
an industrial context. Several ABPI representatives did take on
this task and invested several weeks of their time in the exercise.
This would have certainly had an influence on their decision to
participate, or not, in the recent RAE. Others, supportive of
the initiative but unsure of the actual commitment expected of
them, took a cautious approach and decided not to become involved.
At the same time, it must be recognised by the
Science and Technology Committee that the most recent RAE was
carried out at a time of unprecedented change within the pharmaceutical
industry in the UK. Various mergers and acquisitions (Glaxo Wellcome
and SmithKlineBeecham, Pfizer and Warner Lambert), R&D site
closures (Roche, Knoll, Aventis) and planned expansion of others
(MSD, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Organon etc) made it difficult for many
senior R&D executives with the appropriate skills to find
the time to participate in the RAE and give it the level of commitment
THE 2001 RAE
The ABPI can only comment on those Panels on
which it, or a member company, was represented. We consider that
the 2001 RAE was carried out extremely thoroughly, and that the
process was conducted scrupulously by the Chairman of the Panels,
within the remit set by HEFCE. The criteria for assessment were
defined in detail well before the exercise (following a wide-ranging
consultation exercise) so institutions should have known what
they were being assessed against. The ABPI did recognise that
criteria were included in the assessment for the 2001 exercise,
which meant that there was some recognition of industrial collaboration.
Overall, the ABPI considers that the 2001 RAE
was a definite improvement on the 1996 RAE.
The pharmaceutical industry operates R&D
at an international level and is well placed to recognise world-class
research. From this perspective, the industrial representatives
on the Panels clearly felt that there has been a real increase
in research of an international standing, a view generally confirmed
by the panel experts recruited from outside of the UK. The ABPI
was also pleased to note that for the first time, it was possible
for sponsored clinical research to be allowed into exercise and
considered by one of the panels (Panel 3, Hospital-based clinical
subjects). How much influence such commercially-sponsored clinical
research had on the final outcome is difficult to assess.
If the RAE does remain in its present form,
the ABPI will continue to encourage its member companies to participate.
It may be that, because of time constraints, it is inappropriate
for industrial representatives to be full Panel members and to
be involved in the detailed assessment of the research. Nevertheless,
in a number of panels in which the industry participated (as observers)
the Chairs did encourage them to become involved in a manner beyond
their official role as observers. Some panels in previous exercises
have been keen to involve industry and were very pleased to get
this input. It is our understanding that some panels took a very
traditional view, whereas in others the industry did have a significant
influence on the development of the criteria (which included appropriate
industrial considerations) and were able to provide some comment,
based on these criteria, on all of the submissions.
Concern has been raised over the apparent failure
of the 2001 RAE to generate significant additional financial resources
for those universities who have achieved 5 and 5* assessments.
This may impact on future industry involvement.