Below I have listed a selected small number of projects that I have led and delivered over the past few years. All of these projects are the results of collaborations with brilliant colleagues. I have chosen these projects as they illustrate a diversity of topics, approaches, and impacts.
The inequities of mental health research funding
In this report, the International Alliance of Mental Health Research Funders (IAMHRF) presents the first ever global baseline for mental health research funding. By studying over 75,000 research grants from ~350 funders in over 35 countries, the report provides crucial insights into how much money is spent on mental health research globally, who is funding it, and what is being funded. The report presents a series of inequities in the distribution of funding, with only a tiny fraction of funding received by low- and middle-income countries. I supported the IAMHRF in preparing the report.
Academic incentives and impact
As part of AcademyHealth’s Paradigm Project I was commissioned to write a 'think piece' on academic incentives and research impact. In this paper I offer new strategies to increase the societal impact that health research can have on the community and critiques the existing academic reward structure that determines the career trajectories of so many academics—including, tenure, peer-review publication, citations, and grant funding, among others. The new assessment illustrates how these incentives can lead researchers to produce studies as an end-goal, rather than pursuing impact by applying the work in real world settings.
UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) analysis
This report is based on an analysis of the 6,679 non-redacted impact case studies that were submitted to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). The case studies outline changes and benefits to the economy, society, culture, public policy and services, health, the environment and quality of life. Using a mix of text-mining approaches and qualitative analysis, the nature, scale and beneficiaries of the non-academic impact of research is described.
Findings include: the societal impact of research from UK higher education institutions is considerable, diverse and fascinating; the research underpinning societal impacts is multidisciplinary, and the social benefit arising from research is multi-impactful; different types of higher education institutions specialise in different types of impact; UK higher education institutions have a global impact; the quantitative evidence supporting claims for impact was diverse and inconsistent, suggesting that the development of robust impact metrics is unlikely; the impact case studies provide a rich resource for analysis, but the information is collected for assessment purposes and may need to be aligned for analysis purposes
Vision 2029 - King's College London
In 2016, I was asked to ‘hold the pen’ in developing a new strategy for King’s College London. We designed a process that allowed the future of the university to be co-created with student, staff and alumni through a series of creative workshops, online surveys and key interviews. Over this six-month period, we heard from over 1000 people creating an institution-wide conversation. Throughout the process we implemented a number of innovations. For example, after a workshop we would create a record of the discussion by publishing a photo-journal and posting these on the intranet so others could comment on them. The idea was to model an open and transparent process which subsequently become one of the ‘guiding principles’ in Vision 2029.
The published strategy set out a vision to 2029 – the 200th anniversary of King’s College London. Deliberately presented as a narrative, Vision 2029 identified five strategic priorities with education, research and service making up the academic mission playing out in the context of London and internationally. Sitting alongside the priorities are a series of enablers which focus on strengthening various functions within the university, and as noted, a set of guiding principles.
Assessing the economic returns from research
In recent years, researchers and funders have aimed to better understand the range of impacts arising from public and charitable funding for medical research — including the resulting economic benefits. Such information provides accountability to taxpayers and charity donors and increases our understanding of how research effectively translates to health gains.
I have co-led a number of projects that try to assess the economic return from biomedical and health research in the UK. The original 2008 report focused on the returns generated from investment in cardiovascular disease research, also testing the methodology to a more limited extent on mental health research. Two subsequent studies then applied the approach to cancer research and musculoskeletal disease research. A parallel project estimated the contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that is stimulated by undertaking research in a country – what economists call the ‘spillover effect’. From those studies we have estimated that the economic return from biomedical and health research is around 25% - made up of a monetised value of living longer and better lives (c10%) with economic spillovers adding a further 15%.
What students think about freedom of expression
Universities face criticism over freedom of expression, from a perceived increase in regulation, such as safe space policies and no platforming, to claims that they are succumbing to demands of ‘snowflakes’. Yet the extent of this commentary is often disproportionate to the number of instances where freedom of expression has been violated – and, more importantly, is seldom informed by what students actually think about the issue.
In 2019, I led a study that finds that while students agree that freedom of expression is important, most consider it to be more threatened in the UK overall than in their own university. Most have not heard of any instances where freedom of expression has been violated. Students are broadly supportive of how their university supports freedom of expression and are remarkably similar to the UK population overall in their attitudes towards the issue, calling into question whether the current generation of students really is all that more sensitive or ‘coddled’ than those preceding them. That said, there is cause for concern as one in four students agree that violence can be a justifiable response to hate speech or racially charged comments, as well as evidence of a ‘chilling effect’ where some students are reluctant to express their views.
Best Research for Best Health
Best Research for Best Health was published in 2006 by the UK Department of Health to set out the direction that NHS research and development (R&D) will take to ensure a vibrant, world-class environment for conducting and using NHS health research. It led to the establishment of the National Institute for Health Research that is one of the UK’s largest and innovative research funders. NIHR the first body to manage this activity as an integrated system, unlocking significant increases in government funding.
When at RAND Europe I led a team that provided analytical support in the formulation of Best Research for Best Health and subsequent implementation of NIHR. As noted in a recent paper on the establishment of NIHR, the then Director of R&D in the DH and subsequently Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, said of that work: “a variety of people played key roles [in writing the main strategy paper Best Research for Best Health], but I would argue that Jonathan Grant and the organisation he worked with, RAND Europe, played key roles”.
The Drugs Don't Work
In 2013, I co-authored a book, The Drugs Don't Work, on the global threat of antimicrobial resistance, with the then Chief Medical Office, Professor Dame Sally Davies, and an expert in infectious diseases, Prof Mike Catchpole.
If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine where treatable infections and injuries will kill once again. Antibiotics add, on average, twenty years to our lives. For over seventy years, since the manufacture of penicillin in 1943, we have survived extraordinary operations and life-threatening infections. We are so familiar with these wonder drugs that we take them for granted. The truth is that we have been abusing them: as patients, as doctors, as travellers, in our food. No new class of antibacterial has been discovered for twenty-six years and the bugs are fighting back. If we do not take responsibility now, in a few decades we may start dying from the most commonplace of operations and ailments that today can be treated easily.
The International School of Research Impact Assessment
Along with Paula Adam (AQuAS, Spain) and Kathryn Graham, (Alberta Innovates, Canada) I co-founded the International School of Research Impact Assessment (ISRIA) with in 2013. Through the development of an intense, week-long course, ISRIA was designed to give participants the opportunity to enhance their skills for the planning and development of assessment studies, to better understand how best to report and implement research impact assessments, and how to use those tools and techniques within their own organisations. Most importantly, participants were given the chance to create lasting connections with the people they met and to become a part of a growing global community of practice. Over five years, more than 450 people from 34 countries have participated in ISRIA. ISRIA no longer hosts annual Schools but I am available to develop bespoke courses based on its content with the aim of developing the capacity and capability for research impact assessment globally. Drawing from the content and lessons we learnt in running ISRIA, in 2018 we published a set of guidelines on effective process for research impact assessment, which are available here.