It is some time since the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have spoken. Forever, in fact. But I like to think we are in tune on some things….
The Guardian online has an excellent piece running this afternoon – written by Kieron Flanagan from UMIST – about the nods and winks on science policy in today’s Budget Statement.
Later this week there will be a further ‘Productivity Plan’ unveiled by the Government. This will give us a much more detailed insight into their thinking. However, what we do know from today’s announcement is that Ministers are increasingly keen on re-engineering science funding to emphasise regional strengths up and down the country. What one might call ‘locally inspired but strategically consistent’ science policy. The strategically consistent bit being the end goal of increased productivity and greater wealth.
Clearly the Chancellor and his apparatchiks have read the strategic review of public involvement in the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), ‘Going the Extra Mile’ (now available in a new and improved format).! In particular, recommendation 7 which urges a more regionalist focus to our patient-facing work:
Recommendation 7: Connectivity: What’s happening at grassroots level must continue to be the driving force in public involvement. Here we wish to see further support given to work that is locally inspired and driven whilst strategically consistent with the NIHR overall goals:
- Regional public involvement, engagement and participation ‘citizen’ forums and strategies should be developed in each of the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSN) geographies. We would expect the NIHR’s Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRCs), Research Design Services (RDSs), Local Clinical Research Networks (LCRNs), Biomedical Research Centres and Units (BRC/Us) to play a key leadership role in the development of these.
- Regionally, locally and institutionally, NIHR infrastructure (CLAHRCs, BRU/, BRCs, LCRNs etc.) Directors and Boards should support and encourage public involvement leads to identify cross-cutting activity in public involvement and develop joint plans and stable resourcing where relevant.
- Regional and local partnerships should be identified by the National Director for Patients and the Public in Research to lead on tackling key challenges in the development of public involvement, beginning with diversity and inclusion.
- Building partnerships beyond NIHR boundaries – with health and social care partners, third sector and civic organisations – should be seen as a marker of success in this area and measured appropriately.
- Strengthening and improving the support available to researchers locally and regionally through current delivery mechanisms such as the NIHR Research Design Service.
Get those regional forums and collaborations up and running pronto, I would say. For while the drive towards regionalism covers the whole of science there is no reason – in health at least – why we can’t make it citizen inspired and driven as well.