Report: U.K. a leader in dementia research
The quality of dementia research in the U.K. is second only to the U.S., despite the low number of scientists working in this field, and finding a cure can be accelerated by increasing the number of dementia researchers and investment, according the Intellectual Property & Science business of Thomson Reuters. The findings are featured in an Alzheimer’s U.K. research report “Defeating Dementia.”
The analysis revealed the U.K. published more research on dementia than any other country except the U.S. and ranks second in the world after Sweden in citation impact, the number of times U.K. research is referenced in dementia studies around the globe. Despite its high performance and influence, dementia research capacity in the U.K. is low when compared to cancer, stroke and heart disease. For every dementia research scientist there are six who work on cancer.
“Research output and citation impact in scientific literature is an ideal way to measure the quality and capacity of dementia research,” said Karen Gurney, manager of bibliometric reporting at Thomson Reuters. “This project illuminated an interesting dementia-research landscape in the U.K., where this region is clearly playing an influential role despite its size.”
The research study was commissioned by the U.K.’s leading dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research U.K., in an effort to raise awareness and increase investment for the underfunded field. The data measuring the quality and size of dementia research in the U.K. was compiled by Thomson Reuters. Issued by Alzheimer’s U.K., the report also outlines 14 recommendations to the U.K.government based on feedback from scientists working in the field.
The report “makes a strong case for more investment in dementia research,” said Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research U.K.
The report’s 14 recommendations are:
- U.K. dementia research needs a cohesive national strategy, with sustained, ring-fenced funding.
- Social awareness of the need for dementia research needs to improve; increased public funding would signal its importance and encourage greater voluntary giving.
- While support should continue for the more established research base and areas of investigation in dementia, there needs to be a balance. Funders need to revise current structures and programs so they do not preclude novel approaches and ‘riskier’ projects founded on strong science.
- Funding application and reporting procedures need to be reviewed to ensure that time spent doing research, momentum and continuity are maximized to accelerate progress. Simplifying procedures, especially for smaller grants, would be a productive first step.
- Scientific career paths need revision. The bottlenecks and vicious cycles caused by existing career structures in a priority field like dementia can be eased by introducing a larger number of independent fellowships, more permanent senior scientist/postdoc positions and funding for junior principal investigators.
- More dedicated funding calls as well as taster and master’s courses in dementia research are needed. This will pass down existing expertise and increase knowledge of recent discoveries and new avenues of research. Researchers need to be encouraged into the field at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
- Funding for research and the training pathway for clinicians wishing to undertake research in the dementia field need to be more flexible, to accommodate both the time and income required to carry out clinical work and research.
- National Institute for Health Research Fellowships specifically for dementia research need to be continued and extended to senior clinicians. This will help ensure continuity of the clinical research workforce and the development of capacity at all levels.
- Increased investment needs to be funneled into research that seeks to improve our understanding of the diseases that cause dementia.
- Stronger links between basic and clinical researchers need to be forged.
- A multidisciplinary approach in dementia research is essential to take new findings forward and make meaningful progress.
- Research networks need to be strengthened and extended to promote more collaboration and support researchers and institutions beyond centers of excellence.
- New efforts by the government to streamline the regulatory process are an ideal opportunity to address the difficulties in carrying out dementia research. Current delays in getting ethics approval, as well as the difficulties of accessing patient data and undertaking studies with dementia patients, restrict capacity.
- As the importance of tissue-based research grows, more consistent infrastructural support is needed to address the gaps in procedures for brain donation.