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We see clinical paediatric research in the UK as being under threat. Ultimately, this could affect the quality and nature of material submitted for publication. This annotation takes a brief look at the various pressures both old and new that face clinical paediatric research. By clinical research, we mean research on patients or groups of patients. We use the term to distinguish this from laboratory or ‘test tube’ research. As will be seen below, some of the factors that may have an adverse effect on the quantity of clinical research may have a positive effect on the amount of laboratory research.
Universities in England are funded, via the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to teach students and to do research. The purpose of the HEFCE’s funding for research is to provide for the research infrastructure in universities, to form part of the dual support system whereby public funds for research are provided through funding councils and research councils, to enable universities to undertake collaborate research with industry, charities and others, and to cover most of the costs of basic research undertaken by universities. Universities are subject to a research assessment exercise (RAE), currently every five years. Similar conditions apply in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The HEFCE allocates nearly all funds for research (around 95%) by reference to research quality. The aim is to make the best possible use of public money by selectively funding the highest quality research. Ultimately it seems inevitable that research will be confined to a small number of selected ‘premier league’ universities that perform both teaching and research, the rest (more like a non-league team) only performing teaching. The pros and cons of the startling concept of studying medicine at an institution that performed no research is a separate topic in its own …
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