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Is charity-funded research in universities under threat?

Our head of policy, Sarah Woolnough, has written an illuminating article on the New Scientist’s S Word blog this week, highlighting our concerns that the new coalition government’s cost-cutting might threaten vital cancer research in UK universities.

Along with other many other medical research charities, Cancer Research UK supports scientists working in universities across the UK. Last year alone, nearly half our research budget was spent in universities, directly supporting the costs of life-saving research.

But that’s not the whole story, as Sarah explains:

“When a researcher at a university is funded by a charity grant, the government provides a top-up for any charity-sponsored research funding that takes place within the university. This is delivered as a support element of quality related (QR) funding, and is known as the Charity Research Support Fund (CRSF).

The money comes from a general pot that the government gives to the funding councils – in England this is the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). Equivalent councils in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own, similar funds.

The worry is that while contemplating where necessary cuts might come from, this fund – worth £198million last year – might start to look rather attractive.

But we believe the impact that this would have on charity funded research, and charity funded researchers, would outweigh the relatively small gain to be made by cutting it.”

Read more at the New Scientist S Word site.

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Comments

Simon October 17, 2010

I think that arguing about who advocates tobacco research or policy change and to what benefit is futile. Cigarettes exist and will be smoked even if people die horrible deaths, the government wont ban them. It needs to be undermined at the root, peoples psychology- and unfortunately in the UK, most be people don’t care about themselves (or others) unlike other countries I know.
What IS worth arguing about, is the controversy over charity funded research giving free rides (albeit token out-license fees) to commercial companies as to ultimately develop and sell their inventions for a profit, because they can’t afford to develop these medicines themselves. Then, the government is able to deny their use on the basis of poor cost-effectiveness. Please dont tell me these medicines wouldnt exist otherwise.
Is it me or is this system failing all those patients that public donations are meant to help. What do people think happens to all that money. Perhaps opening new manufacturing facilities has been a result of government pressure. Unfortunately the ‘cure’ as some people put it will never come, as long as people remain political sheep, keep their jobs and never look at the bigger picture.
The government needs to legislate ‘true’ not for profit organisations (as in other european countries-state run) that will provide clinical benefit at the same rate as the big players, hopefully more innovative, without lining the pockets of all involved to such an extent it currently is.
Its shame it will remain this way for a long time to come. I wouldnt be suprised that this isn’t posted.

Kate August 2, 2010

There was a research report presented at one of the SRNT conferences (last year in the US I think) that said leaving your cigarettes in the car helps you to smoke less.

That probably cost a fortune … somebody is taking the piss and I suspect the words tobacco control play an important role.

George Speller August 2, 2010

I don’t get it. If CRUK have found out what caused cancer – tobacco – then there’s no further need to research it . . . so why don’t they close down and find something else to do?

Kate July 30, 2010

Can I ask please –
If someone found a cure for cancer that wasn’t an effort from the multi million pound research effort and wasn’t profitable for pharmaceutical companies to produce, would CRUK sponsor that product and bring it to the market?

I’ve seen a couple of rumours recently that cheap and easily available commodities may treat cancer but are being ignored because there’s no profit in developing a use in health services for them.

Belinda July 28, 2010

It would seem that this is the page that worries me! http://science.cancerresearchuk.org/funding/find-grant/all-funding-schemes/tobacco-advisory-group-project-grants/index.htm

The project outcome must support a policy of tobacco control, regardless of whether the eventual outcome has any impact on cancer rates in the UK (or anywhere else for that matter). The idea that more and more tobacco control has any impact on cancer rates or survival seems based on wishful thinking.

Bill Bibson July 28, 2010

Hi Henry

I am a lifelong non-smoker and am disgusted at the twisted methods used by Government funded pressure groups to force through political agenda against the will of the electorate.

Please visit and endorse The Brussels Declaration on Scientific Integrity a document of global significance created by scientists who have had enough of seing their work being manipulated or ignored bu Governments as they force unwanted or unnecessary legislation upon us regarding our Lifestyle Choice.

http://www.brusselsdeclaration.org/pages/home/

At the same time join us in ensuring that Champix and Zyban be banned as Smoking Cessation products as a result of their known dangerous side effects.

http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2010/07/new-study-provides-strong-evidence-of.html

Finally with regard to Mental Health I ask you to read this http://www.data-yard.net/brussels_speeches/snel.pdf

Kate July 27, 2010

Hi Henry, thanks for the reply.

I can’t find out who the beneficiaries of ASH UK are, they won’t tell me. The Charity Commission has ‘the public’ on record but I’m a member of the public and ASH want me to have no acceptable option for nicotine delivery other than to smoke. I’m also excluded from healthcare because of forced withdrawal and non consensual addiction treatment.

They have asked for the recreational nicotine market to be closed to give the monopoly to pharm companies, of course with the exception of tobacco. That means I might not be able to use my electronic cigarette or any other reduced harm product that may work for me like Swedish Snus (because they’re banned too). Tobacco control relies on an abusive cycle of forcing smokers to quit and fail with ineffective and expensive medical interventions. Anything that breaks the gravy train is banned.

I’ve also seen hundreds of tobacco control research reports and can’t honestly think of anything more twisted and useless. It may serve a propaganda purpose in the short term but it doesn’t benefit society in the long term. The last heart attack ‘research’ is a classic example of tobacco control spinning out of control. The heart attack trends remain the same after the smoke ban but tobacco control claim they’ve dropped.

Has it occurred to you that smoking rates were in decline before tobacco control became big business and now the decline has stopped? More money, more research, more profits for private pockets, more stigma for a marginalised group and stalled progress.

Suicide trends stopped dropping when the smoke ban came in http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=1092

And apparently there’s more chance of getting lung cancer after quitting smoke http://www.lungcanceralliance.org/press/documents/WomenandLC2010_000.pdf

I feel pretty passionate about the damage tobacco control has done because it has directly changed my ability to access healthcare and to make my own informed lifestyle choices.

When I’m back on the fags I’ll have one for you, cheers.

Belinda July 27, 2010

Thanks. I didn’t say there was no link between tobacco and cancer, I questioned whether it was the main cause of cancer. I didn’t know (and still don’t know as I haven’t checked your accounts yet) what proportion of your funding goes on tobacco control.

Regarding the death toll of tobacco is it clear (in laymen’s terms) how it is arrived at, and how other lifestyle, environmental genetic and other factors are discounted?

Even accepting all that you say, when times are hard and cuts imminent I would still question the relevance to Cancer Research UK of research projects in smoking cessation in China and the Balkans, and likewise the research project on an ‘ambitious strategy’ for tobacco control in Scotland should take low priority when there are other agencies in tobacco control that can invest in such studies.

Henry Scowcroft July 27, 2010

Thanks for your comments.

Belinda questions whether the link between tobacco and cancer is “universally accepted”. While there may be those who doubt the 50+ years’ worth of scientific evidence, we prefer to let the evidence speak for itself – and people can read the strength of this overwhelming volume of research for themselves here, here, here, and here.

Cancer Research UK’s predecessor organisations were instrumental in finding the link between tobacco and cancer in the 1950s. But just finding the link was not enough to reduce smoking levels – indeed among women they continued to rise (ref in link above). Reducing smoking rates is complex and hard so we need to carry out research into the tobacco industry; how to help people give up or never start; and, how to reduce the harm that tobacco causes to others.

Our experience has also been that without actively making the results of this research known to the public, the media and the people in power, in practice very little changes. We believe we have made an important contribution to improving the UK’s policies on tobacco and as a result the UK has cut its smoking rates more than countries that have weaker tobacco control policies.

Belinda also questions whether such research is “in Cancer Research UK’s remit”. We would like to refer her and others to our organisation’s goals, which are clearly stated on our website, particularly goal two:

http://aboutus.cancerresearchuk.org/who-we-are/our-goals/goal-2-smoking-reduction/

Kate presumes that we’re “paid a lot by pharmaceutical companies to front for them and present the findings and lobby for social engineering that they can profit from”. This is simply false. Under UK charity law we are required to publish our annual reports and accounts transparently and openly. You can find these here. As you can see, we are funded almost entirely by donations from the UK public and we have strong support from our campaigners to keep tobacco control a top priority for the UK’s public health.

Cancer Research UK’s vision is that “together we will beat cancer”. Given that over a quarter of cancer deaths are caused by tobacco it is simply impossible to fulfil our purpose without helping to tackle the use of tobacco.

Smoking Hot July 26, 2010

May not meet the remit of Cancer Research but certainly meets the remit of those who wish to go to China and be paid for it. Same ole, same ole

Belinda July 25, 2010

Also: how does this study meet the remit of Cancer Research UK?

http://science.cancerresearchuk.org/research/who-and-what-we-fund/browse-by-location/birmingham/university-of-birmingham/grants/kk-cheng-10155-smoking-cessation-and-advocacy-training (Smoking cessation and advocacy training among health professionals in Beijing and Guangzhou, China)

Kate July 25, 2010

CRUK involvement in tobacco control – their lies and exaggerations, has taken away all credibility for the organisation in my eyes.

Presumably you’re paid a lot by pharmaceutical companies to front for them and present the findings and lobby for social engineering that they can profit from.

Unfortunately you’re not in the business of finding solutions as much as prolonging the problems, at least as far as tobacco is concerned.

Belinda July 25, 2010

There is research and research. I understand the need for research that investigates the causes of and treatments for cancer but not for research projects such as this http://science.cancerresearchuk.org/research/who-and-what-we-fund/browse-by-location/edinburgh/ash-scotland/grants/sheila-duffy-11937-beyond-smoke-free-developing-an-ambitious.

This research not only takes for granted that tobacco is a prime cause of cancer but further undertakes ‘an ambitious strategy for tobacco control in Scotland’. Even accepting that tobacco is the main cause of cancer (which I believe is far from universally accepted), it is not the job of Cancer Research UK to fund research into the development of a tobacco control strategy.

I don’t know if your funding operates in a similar way in supporting attempts to control other industries but I don’t think it is appropriate use of medical charity funds.

Belinda
Freedom to Choose (Scotland)