MRC review on maximising biomedical data science opportunities

Modern medical research laboratory: portrait of latin and black young scientists using microscope, digital tablet, doing sample analysis, talking. Diverse team of specialists work in advanced lab.

Review published today recognises pace of global advances in data capability.

The review sets priorities to ensure the UK remains a world leader in biomedical data science innovation.

An urgent opportunity

The review describes the potential for data science to transform biomedical research approaches, strengthen UK global research leadership and deliver a step-change in our understanding of human health and disease.

The depth and breadth of UK biomedical research assets offer the rich, diverse, and nationally cohesive collaboration required to realise this potential.

However, rapid international responses have created an urgent and time-limited window for UK to act.

Opportunities for biomedical data research that required concerted action include:

  • improvements to the breadth and diversity of the people and skills included in biomedical research as part of equitable teams (including attractive, dynamic, and sustainable biomedical data science career offers)
  • visibility, discoverability, accessibility, and timeliness of data
  • continued development and uptake of better methods for research and data
  • responsible data innovation
  • new approaches to funding that recognise the full range of research contributions that maximise the return on research investment and will catalyse the next generation of biomedical data science.

Transforming impact

The shared opportunities for UK Research and Innovation to act to add value to both biomedical scientists working with data, and data scientists working in biomedical research was recognised.

The review recommended a new flagship national initiative open to complement and drive partnership across existing UK biomedical assets. The initiative would set a clear course and transparent, shared expectations to:

  • support the methodological innovation and delivery of novel and exciting data science at scale, with data science talent included across biomedical research leadership
  • maximise the learning opportunities and wealth creation from UK biomedical data assets
  • increase the breadth and resilience of biomedical data science expertise to improve safe access, reproducibility and re-use of research outputs
  • provide simpler landing points for industry and international engagement in UK biomedical data science
  • encourage more data scientists to apply their skills to biomedicine by supporting training across career stages, developing attractive career structures and incentives for equitable team science
  • accelerate innovation and amplify best practice to strengthen biomedical data talent.

Representing the first step

This review represents the first step to raise awareness, engage partners and to develop a collective response to the research opportunities identified.

The review builds on the 2020 Medical Research Council (MRC) unit and centre portfolio review, which highlighted data as an essential and shared priority within UK research.

Recommendations came from an independent panel of leading experts, representing the breadth and diversity of biomedical research and including international and industry representation.

Transforming inclusion and collaboration

Director of the British Heart Foundation Data Science Centre, Chair of Neurology and Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, and Chair of the review, Professor Cathie Sudlow OBE FMedSci, said:

I am very grateful for the excellent and insightful contributions of the review’s panel members and stakeholders.

This review sets an important challenge to all those engaged in UK biomedical research to transform their approach to inclusion and collaboration, better recognise the true breadth of research contributions and realise the full and rapidly increasing opportunities of biomedical data science.

Read the 2022 review: the opportunity of biomedical data science.

Read the 2020 report: MRC unit and centre portfolio review.

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