Supplementary memorandum by the Medical
APPLICATION AND SUCCESS RATES OF RESEARCHERS
APPLYING TO THE MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL FOR FUNDING FOR INFECTIONS
Committee Question: What is the success rate of
applications to MRC in infections research compared to other areas?
What is the relative success of basic and clinical research?
Summary: About 22 per cent of grant and fellowship
applications to the MRC is in the area of infections, and the
award rates in infections research (39 per cent) are closely similar
to those for all awards (37 per cent). The pattern for clinical
schemes indicates that infections proposals do relatively well.
1. To answer the Committee's question about
we sampled a five year funding period, identifying all grants
and personal fellowships with an end date in the five-year period
1 April 1997 to 31 March 2002. To identify the patterns for MRC
direct support in its establishments, it was more practical to
sample the one-year period 1 April 2000 to 31 March 2003.
2. For the award rate analysis, the definition
of infections is broad and includes some research (~10 per cent)
on prion diseases, or pathogens or immunology other than in the
context of infections.
This definition is an MRC standard, which allows us to run various
research management analyses on a standard data set.
3. Our expenditure on infections research
was between £42 million and £46 million for the year
2001-02. The upper figure relates to the broad definition, corresponding
to the dataset used in this award rate analysis and in our evidence
to the committee in October 2002. The lower figure uses a narrower
definition, excluding work on prions, pathogens and immunology
not related to infections. Data on the relative success of "infections"
compared "all awards" is not affected by which of the
two datasets is used.
All grants and fellowships
4. One thousand six hundred and eighty nine
(22 per cent) of the 7,612 grants and fellowships applications
in the five-year sample were concerned with infections broadly.
5. Six hundred and sixty five (39 per cent)
of the 1,689 infections applications were awarded. This was almost
identical to the award rate of all applications ("all areas")
in the sample (37 per cent).
Clinical fellowships and professorships
6. Of the 1,689 applications relevant to
infections, 231 were submitted for clinical fellowships and professorships.
7. One hundred and fourteen (49 per cent)
of the 231 infections applications were awarded. While this appears
high compared to the award rate of 19 per cent across all areas
in the sample, it can be accounted for by high variation in award
rates between schemes and across time. The evidence does not suggest
that "infections" applications are systematically significantly
more successful than other areas of clinical research.
Five-year programme grants
8. The renewable, five year programme grant
is MRC's principal means of funding long term programmes of research
proposed by university-based senior investigators. Fifty seven
per cent were awarded in the infections sample, compared to 52
per cent for all areas.
9. There are two points to note.
While programme grants appear relatively
successful, a significant proportion of potential applications
are withdrawn by proposers after a preliminary assessment;
these data relate to the formal assessment and do not include
the preliminary stage.
In this five-year sample, the infections
category had fewer programme grants and more short term awards
than did all areas combined.
MRC INSTITUTES, UNITS
10. There were 108 directly supported MRC
programmes concerned with infections.
11. Forty nine programmes were submitted
for review as part of the quinquennial reviews of seven of MRC's
UK-based establishments. Two programmes were closed or discontinued.
12. In addition, the future programmes proposed
by the MRC Laboratory in The Gambia are being re-submitted.
1. Award rates for infections research have
been similar to those in other areas of research supported by
the Council. If anything, infections rates have been slightly
higher, particularly in the smaller clinical schemes.
2. Nevertheless, Council is developing its
research strategy in infections so as to respond to public and
professional concerns about infections. We are doing so in partnership
with other organisations, building on our various strengths, exploiting
new opportunities and tackling challenging gaps. The House of
Lord's S&T Committee's deliberations are a welcome and important
addition to the debate.
4 We have used the term award rate rather than success
Because much of MRC's research crosses disease and disciplinary
boundaries, mapping individual awards to particular scientific
areas is not exact. Use of broad definitions has the merit of
reflecting the multidisciplinarity of research. Narrower definitions
help when focusing on particular issues. Back
These figures for clinical fellowships and professorships usefully
illustrate award rates, but they are not useful for indicating
the overall amount of clinical work. This is because clinical
research is also embedded in other schemes. We have not tried
to look at clinical "success" in these other schemes
because the clinical work often forms only one part of a programme
or project and is therefore difficult to extract for analysis. Back
Typically, researchers submit an informal "outline programme
grant application" on which expert advice is sought. Following
feedback, about half of the proposers decide not to submit formally.
We have not routinely collated data on this preliminary stage;
our award rate data relate to the formal applications.