Our successes

Evaluation programme

For 100 years, the MRC has been transforming medical research, supporting work that has improved human health and changed lives by delivering economic, academic and societal impact. This is in line with our strategic plan, which drives progress in support of our mission to improve human health through world-class research. The benefits of our research have both a national and international impact; from picking research that delivers in disease areas such as cancer, dementia, heart and bone disease, and translating that research into tangible benefits to supporting and providing leadership in global partnerships and providing a world-class environment for medical research.

Evaluation is a critical component of our work, both in helping to ensure that the research we fund is of the highest quality, and in assessing these benefits and impact.

Methodology for MRC portfolio analysis

The MRC reports widely on the breadth and outcomes of MRC-funded research. Information on the MRC award portfolio and its impact appears in government and other publically available reports, news articles, our blog and many other MRC publications. In this section, we explain the methodologies and approaches we use to collect, assess and present data about MRC programmes and their outputs. In general, the majority of reporting methodology follows similar approaches using two main datasets: grant management data and researchfish®

Read more on our Methodology for evaluation page


Researchfish (formerly MRC e-Val) is the main evaluation tool we use to capture and measure the achievements and impact of MRC research. This is an online system developed by the MRC with the research community. Researchfish has now been widely adopted by the research community. For more information about the history of Researchfish and its principles of use, please see our Researchfish pages.

This animation shows the location by city of coauthors on MRC papers. The data was reported by MRC funded researchers via Researchfish in October – December 2014. Information collected in Researchfish is made available on Gateway to Research and is used in a wide range of reports and analyses. Here is one example of a standard report (PDF, 3.79MB), using sample data.

Economic impact

Evaluating the economic impact of our research has never been more important. The Government’s spending review of 2010 protected the MRC budget in real terms and provided a ring-fenced budget for science. This was as a result of a united campaign that demonstrated that investment in medical research is critical not only for society, but the UK economy too.

However, there is continued pressure for us to provide better estimates of our return on investment. To support the stories about where our research is making a difference, we are building on our existing evidence with the numbers on how MRC-funded research is making an impact.

Working with industry not only helps to facilitate the effective translation of research into concrete patient benefits, with joint efforts resulting in the development of hundreds of products, but also helps to generate further funding. The Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT), set up by Sir Philip Cohen, has attracted more than £50 million in joint funding from five of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies.

We also run a specific research programme to develop the mechanisms to better understand the link between medical research and its societal and economic impacts. We have launched three rounds of funding in this programme; the first round resulted in a project investigating how the time between initial research and the eventual health benefits can be speeded up or slowed down. The third call for applications opened in February 2014.

In 2008, with the Wellcome Trust and Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS), we published a report  (PDF, 2.09MB)providing the first quantitative estimates of the economic benefits of publicly and charitably-funded medical research in the UK. The research, conducted by a consortium involving the Health Economics Research Group at Brunel University, the Office of Health Economics and RAND Europe, led to the development of a methodology used to calculate the health and economic gains from public and charity investment in medical research, using cardiovascular disease and mental health research as case studies. The work demonstrated a substantial rate of return on this investment in terms of both health and economic (GDP) gains to the UK. For each pound invested by the taxpayer or charity donor in cardiovascular disease and mental health research, a stream of benefits is produced equivalent to a return of 39 pence and 37 pence respectively each year.

The MRC Economic Impact report is part of the research councils’ performance management framework required by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and has been published each year since 2005. The report includes metrics agreed with BIS and the other research councils, measuring specific aspects of research council impact.

Contact: MRCEvaluationTeam@headoffice.mrc.ac.uk