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Re: Professor Andrew N Williams’ letter to ADC “Failing to consider Virtual Academic Units within UK infrastructure for research that benefits infants, children and young people”
We were pleased to hear the success of the Virtual Academic Unit and invited Professor Andrew Williams to contribute to the RCPCH research bulletin of March 2019.
At the RCPCH, we know from our research and from speaking to our membership, that paediatricians around the country have little or no allocated funding or designated research time. We, therefore, applaud all those paediatricians who continue to go above and beyond to undertake research to achieve better health outcomes for children and young people.
The RCPCH is fully committed to strengthening basic science and clinical research and the development of devices, medicines and technologies that address the needs of children. Furthermore, our committment includes supporting our members and growing and promoting opportunities for research within paediatrician’s careers.
We will continue to work with our partners across the UK to influence, promote and grow child health research.
Lindsey Hunter, Research Development Manager, RCPCH
Professor Anne Greenough, immediate past Vice President Science and Research, RCPCH and Professor of Neonatology and Clinical Respiratory Physiology, King's College London
I was deeply surprised that this leading paper in citing the 2018 ‘Turning the tide 5 years on’ does not mention ‘virtual Biomedical Research Units and Centres’ (1,2). The establishment of such centres had been specifically recommended in the seminal 2012 RCPCH Report ‘Turning the Tide: Harnessing the power of child health research’ (3).
We in Northampton established a Virtual Academic Unit (VAU) in 2004, and published our experience of its first 10 years experience in Archives in 2015 (4).
Among the articles published through the VAU there is ‘Ethical Research Involving Children.’ (2013) UNICEF, which predates the College own Children’s and Young People’s Child Health Research Charter. (5)
The Virtual Academic Unit is continuing to collaborate on and publish in clinical child health research to this day. (6) However, it has remained totally unfunded with no allocated research time in spite of every possible endeavour to address this.
We have to be pragmatic and recognise that with present and future increasing pressures within the NHS having any research time within a job plan is seen by most NHS managers as an unproductive luxury given the immediate pressing necessities of delivering a clinical service.
As my 2015 article relates
‘A VAU has its place and in a present and future environment where resources are continuing to be constrained, a method of working that allows something meaningful to be produced, from where previousl...
‘A VAU has its place and in a present and future environment where resources are continuing to be constrained, a method of working that allows something meaningful to be produced, from where previously nothing could be expected at all. …Some realistic mechanism translating into sustained funding for VAUs would be very helpful.’ (4)
1 Whitty CJM Building UK infrastructure for research that benefits infants, children and young people
2 Hunter L, Greenough A, Modi N . Turning the tide 5 years on. London: Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2018.
3 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. Turning the Tide: Harnessing the power of child health research. RCPCH, 2012. http://www.rcpch.ac.uk/system/files/protected/page/
4 Williams A.N. A Virtual Academic Unit – the first 10 years. Arch Dis Child Educ Pract 2015; 100(3):164-5
5 Williams AN. Facilitating future benefit when a participant has a degenerative illness and cannot give consent. In: Graham A, Powell M, Taylor N, et al., eds. Ethical research involving
children. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research—Innocenti, 2013:118–9.
6 Developmental disabilities among children younger than 5 years in 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016
Global Research on Developmental Disabilities Collaborators* Lancet Global Health 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(18)30309-7