Campaigning for science funding

This week has been quite exciting in the research development team. The symposium abstract book has been printed, the biomedical research advisory panel are meeting today to discuss the applications submitted to us for research funding in May and the campaign to save government spending on science that we are supporting has been stimulating a lot of discussion and debate…

On Saturday 9 October, our very own Dr Belinda Cupid, head of research spoke to BBC Radio Kent about the proposed plans to cut the science budget and what this would mean to us. You can listen to the interview via the BBC iPlayer for Pat Marsh’s show on 9 October 2010 (it starts at 2 hours six mins 46 seconds and finishes at 2 hours ten mins).

Later that day, our president, Prof Colin Blakemore spoke at the Science is Vital rally held in London. Colin has been heavily involved with the campaign and was interviewed by the BBC alongside a Science is Vital representative. You can see the BBC coverage here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11508105

Cuts to medical and health research may further marginalise ‘orphan’ diseases like MND which traditionally receive less government funding.

So far, at least 16 people living with MND have signed the petition – which has been mentioned in a New Scientist blog article. So, thank you so much to all those who have already signed as your voices really are being heard!

If you haven’t, and are interested in getting involved then please visit http://scienceisvital.org.uk for more information.

Today, the MND Association was given a high profile in two articles in The Times, warning the government against cuts to the science budget.

The first is a letter written by the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), warning the government of the effects that potential funding cuts could have. As the Association is a member of the AMRC, our chief executive Kirstine Knox was a signatory on this letter. We have received permission to share it with you:

Sir,

Our work benefits millions of patients across the UK. Last year alone the 124 members of the Association of Medical Research Charities funded more than £1 billion of medical and health research. As a proportion of public expenditure that is more than any other country. This contribution is driven by the combined efforts of volunteers, supporters, donors, clinicians, scientists and patients themselves. If ever there was an example of the “Big Society” in action this is it.

Ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) we have asked the coalition Government to sustain science funding and ensure an environment that allows charities to fund research on behalf of patients. Failure to do so will lead to the UK losing its position as an international leader in science. Additional unacceptable strictures on research, such as the proposed cap on non-EU migrants, can only fuel concerns that our future scientists will be expected to work with one hand tied behind their backs.

Ministers are mistaken if they believe that charities are a substitute for Government expenditure. One of the great strengths of UK science is the synergy that exists between public, charitable and industry sources of funding. Only last week we saw evidence of what this collaboration can mean with the bowel-screening announcement heralded at the Conservative Party conference. It is such progress and the opportunity to improve health and wellbeing that has enabled us to build public support for research, support that leverages funding from other sources for the common good.

We recognise the very difficult decisions facing George Osborne. But in these final days before the CSR announcement he may wish to reflect on the comment by the American health activist Mary Lasker: “If you think research is expensive, try disease.

Yours faithfully,

AMRC member charities

The second Times article is an overview written by Mark Henderson which refers to the letter and specifically mentions the MND Association alongside such funding bodies as The Welcome Trust. Having our name printed alongside major funding bodies is brilliant coverage for both motor neurone disease and the Association!

We’ll keep you posted on the progress of the campaign via our blog and our twitter account at www.twitter.com/mndresearch.

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