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expert reaction to Paul Nurse’s Independent Review of the UK’s Research, Development and Innovation Organisational Landscape

The final report and recommendations on the UK’s Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) Organisational Landscape have been published.

This Roundup accompanied an SMC Briefing.


Prof Bart De Strooper, Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute, said:

“Paul Nurse’s review of the UK’s research and development landscape is a bold articulation of how UK science could thrive, with a focus on enabling the best research for the benefit of all of society. The review recognises the important role of research institutes in uniting diverse, multidisciplinary teams behind a common mission and addressing national needs by pursuing research in high-priority areas.

“The review’s recommendation that institutes should receive long-term, end-to-end funding is welcome, and we are pleased that the UK Dementia Research Institute has recently secured a five-year funding package that offers the security he recommends.

“Above all, we strongly endorse Sir Paul’s comments on necessity of associating to Horizon Europe, and urge the Government to implement this without delay. Horizon membership will give us ready-made access to the best European research talent, infrastructure, networks and data, which will only strengthen the science conducted on UK soil.”


Prof Tara Spires-Jones, Professor of Neurodegeneration and deputy director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, and BNA President-Elect, said:

“While the extension of the Horizon Europe Guarantee will be reassuring to UK neuroscientists, we are concerned at the recent shift in tone on Horizon Europe membership. UK participation in Horizon Europe is essential to maintain neuroscience collaborations and keep the UK at the top of internationally competitive neuroscience. The Nurse review makes it clear that the full benefits from UK participation in Horizon Europe cannot be reproduced by an alternative UK scheme. We encourage the UK Government to press ahead to secure full membership without delay.” 


Prof Rik Henson, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University of Cambridge and BNA President, said:

“The Nurse review highlights the pressing challenges facing the research community, and the need for wide-ranging change. Our Credibility in Neuroscience campaign has recommended changes to the research environment to better recognise and incentivise credible research, and we in particular welcome the Review’s recognition of the need for mechanisms that better consider the quality and not just the quantity of research delivered, and the importance of independent replication of key findings.”


Joseph Clift, BNA Head of Policy and Campaigns, said:

“The investment of £370 million of funding to support the Science and Technology Framework needs be considered in the context of the £1.6 billion science funding recently returned to the Treasury – funding that the Government had repeatedly insisted would be spent on research. This is a key test for the Government’s science superpower ambitions, and we hope the remainder of this funding forms a boost to UK research in the Spring Budget announcement next week.”


Prof Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society, said:

“Paul Nurse has given a detailed prescription for how the science system can best support the UK’s productivity and growth whilst grappling with urgent global challenges. The Prime Minister has warned that the UK will fall behind if we make the wrong decisions now as other countries see an explosion in productivity jobs and improved quality of life from new technologies.

“We welcome the review’s calls for increased investment, reduced policy volatility and good data collection. It is also good to see calls for a long-lasting, consistent, systematic approach to policy development.

 “The newly established Department for Science, Innovation and Technology needs to rapidly drive the changes needed across the whole of Government, if they are to deliver on the Prime Minister’s ambition for the UK.”


Prof Dame Anne Johnson PMedSci, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said:

“We welcome the publication of the independent Nurse review which, if implemented, will re-energise the research landscape in the UK. The review helpfully acknowledges the many strengths of our research system, from universities to charities, and rightly points out several challenges that must be overcome to ensure the system delivers its full benefits for society.

“Sir Paul highlights concerning fragilities in the UK’s R&D funding model which need addressing for the Government to realise its science superpower ambitions and for the UK to be competitive globally.

“We are pleased that his review, and the Government’s Science and Technology Framework, highlight that people are central to the research endeavour. In particular, the Nurse review underscores the critical need for actions to support clinical academics working in the NHS, in addition to the wider community.

“He rightly emphasises the need to encourage career path and skills diversity whilst promoting permeability across sectors. This will ensure the brightest minds are equipped and supported to drive innovation for the health and wealth of the nation.

“The Academy will shortly be publishing its own report on the long-term sustainability of health research, which will set out some of the steps needed by Governments, funders, universities, industry and the NHS to deliver on the ambitions that are reflected in today’s announcements. We look forward to working with the Government to take forward the recommendations of both these reports.”


Prof Lord John Krebs, University of Oxford, said:

“The Nurse review is an excellent and forensic analysis of the UK Research Development and Innovation (RDI) landscape, with clear recommendations.  Many of these echo two recent House of Lords S&T Select Committee reports.  Nurse points to the facts that the UK is 27th out of 36 OECD countries for the level of public investment in RDI, that there has not been a long term stable policy landscape, and that universities and research establishments alike are starved of funds.  He also emphasises the key importance of rejoining Horizon and of building the right skills to support a science and innovation country.  Set against this clear and compelling picture, the Government’s recent announcements, although welcome in terms of the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for science, are a mere drop in the ocean, and will certainly not deliver a science superpower”.


Prof Dame Ottoline Leyser, UK Research and Innovation chief executive, said:

“I welcome the ambition of Sir Paul’s Landscape Review to achieve revolution in research and innovation by evolution. The principles set out in the review closely mirror those in the UKRI strategy and we look forward to working with Government and the research and innovation community to foster the diverse, connected, resilient and engaged research and innovation system that the UK needs to prosper.”


Prof Liam Smeeth, Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said:

“This is a really important and ground-breaking review of the UK’s research and development capabilities. The current government – and indeed the political opposition  – make welcome statements about the importance of supporting UK research and their ambition for the UK to be a global scientific leader. Implementing the recommendations from this review would provide a clear pathway towards this ambition.”


Katherine Mathieson, Director of the Royal Institution and Alyssa Gilbert, Director of Undaunted, said:

“We welcome Sir Paul’s call for more Government support for research to tackle the big challenges society faces, while driving economic growth. Cleantech innovators supported by Undaunted – backed by Imperial College London and based at the Ri – are showing how the UK can take the lead in developing practical solutions to the causes and effects of the climate crisis, deployable on a global scale. It is essential that investment continues to help other researchers and innovators to do the same.


Prof James Naismith, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and a challenge reviewer and contributor to the report, said:

“The RDI landscape report is a timely publication.  RDI is the only way to move the UK up the value chain and increase our standard of living in the years ahead. The UK has been enormously successful in aspects of this landscape where we have invested strongly. This has been a major contributor to our well-being.

“This success should not blind us to longstanding neglect in other aspects. The UK has evolved a rather unbalanced system that is not going to deliver the gains we need. Sir Paul has reviewed in detail this system and has proposed a set of very clear recommendations that deserve to be read in full. The prescription offered is essential if we are to deliver our shared future prosperity. At the core of the report is a vision for the UK to develop a world-leading, properly resourced and much more balanced ecosystem of industry, institutes, universities, and public sector research establishments.

“In short, if it’s implemented we will have an ecosystem shaped to deliver the future economic and societal benefits needed for the whole of the UK.”


Nicola Perrin, CEO of the Association of Medical Research Charities, said:

“Sir Paul’s recommendations are typically insightful and set an important direction of travel for strong and stable UK research.

“We’re very pleased to see Sir Paul highlighting charity funding as a valued component of research support in the UK. AMRC member charities have invested £15bn in medical research over the last decade. We believe a stable and sustainable research base is essential for incentivising competitively awarded funding from charities.

“As he recommends, we welcome discussions between Government, universities and charities to develop a sustainable approach to long-term funding, including addressing the shortfall of the CRSF.

“Clinical research activity in the NHS delivers clear benefits to patients, such as improved outcomes and lower mortality rates, as well as to the NHS and the broader economy. We’re therefore concerned about the difficulties faced by clinical researchers in finding the time needed to carry out research, and we echo the Review’s recommendation that this needs to be addressed with urgency.”


Prof Sarah Main, Executive Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), said:

“This review is a blueprint for how the UK can make the most of its science capabilities to improve lives and livelihoods, through integrating national assets, infrastructure, skills, and investment. Long termism is the magic ingredient, and we call on all political parties to work together to secure a UK strategy for R&D.

“In addition, public support is vital to create a science-positive, innovation-positive country. Our new public insights dataset points the way.”


Prof Julia Black, President of the British Academy, said: 

“It’s exciting to see the much-anticipated Nurse Review published and while it will take time to draw out the implications of its recommendations fully, a few clear points stand out at this early stage:

“The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, UKRI, and the National Science and Technology Council will need to work together to establish the overall architecture and governance of RDI policy; collectively they are responsible for all of the UK’s research base, including the SHAPE disciplines (social sciences, humanities and the arts for people and the economy) and must be able to demonstrate an understanding of, and commitment to, the value these subjects offer to the economy, the environment, and society.

“We welcome the recognition in the Review of the important role the British Academy plays, along with the other national academies, in the UK’s RDI landscape.

“The Review is clear that unhypothecated research funding is essential for all disciplines, in all environments, from universities to galleries, libraries, arts and museums. We are encouraged by the support for Quality Related (QR) funding, which is critical for sustaining SHAPE research, and the assertion that funding for RDI should be increased to allow the UK to compete with research-intensive nations.

“We are delighted to see the excellent examples of interdisciplinarity drawn out in the Review; from the human impact of machines to how design helps communities better use data. Working across disciplines allows the UK to solve complex local and global challenges.”



Declared interests

The nature of this story means everyone quoted above could be perceived to have a stake in it. As such, our policy is not to ask for interests to be declared – instead, they are implicit in each person’s affiliation.

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