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Consultation Responses

NIHR Health Futures survey (July 2017)

What are the great health challenges of the next three decades? In our response to this survey from the National Institute for Health Research, which attempts to answer this question from an immunological angle, we focus on the rising burden of immune mediated conditions, and what our developing understanding of the immune system's role in other disease areas, such as metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, means for the future. We also examine some of the key drivers of these changes, not just scientific and technological, but the environmental and societal factors that are influencing patterns of disease.

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The use of complementary and alternative medicine: making decisions about charitable status (May 2017)

The Charity Commission is seeking views on wheather organisations that promote the use of complementary and/or alternative medicines should be considered charities and the level and nature of evidence required to support the use of complementary and alternative medicine. The BSI believes that organisations which use or promote these types of therapies should gain charitable status where the therapy they are promoting has been extensively researched and reviewed and has been concluded to without doubt benefit the health of the population.

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Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry on STEM skills (January 2017)

Driven by the expansion of affordable next-generation sequencing technologies, deficiencies in computational and bioinformatics skills have led to an interpretation and analysis bottleneck which impedes the adoption of high-throughput technology in informing research on complex issues in immunology, such as in vaccines research and the development of new cancer immunotherapies. In this evidence to the Science Committee we highlight the STEM skills gap in this area and suggest practical means of addressing it, which include the adoption of formal training programmes for postdoctoral students.

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Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry on Leaving the EU: implications and opportunities for science and research (September 2016)

The decision of the British people to leave the European Union (EU) has generated a very significant set of challenges for the scientific community. The EU plays a hugely facilitative role in promoting scientific collaboration, ensuring fluid researcher mobility, and funding the highest quality scientific research. In this evidence to the Science and Technology Select Committee, we set out what we see as priority issues of engagement for the exit negotiations. These include maintaining access to the full programme of EU science initiatives (Horizon 2020), preserving streamlined cross-border entry systems for scientists (ideally by retaining free movement), and guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens currently residing here to stay. However, as our report Immunology: An international, life-saving science points out, immunology is a truly global science. Therefore, the post-referendum period may also offer fresh opportunities to expand or renew strong links with partners outside Europe.

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Lord Stern’s review of the Research Excellence Framework (March 2016)

In January the Government asked Lord Nicholas Stern to lead an independent review of the Research Excellence Framework (REF). In our response to this consultation we highlight some of our concerns regarding the REF’s definition of impact, and how we feel this may be influencing the research agenda, as well as the REF’s sometimes regretful utility as an HR tool for HE institutions. We also cover issues such as the use of metrics, the need to offer more detailed feedback for participating researchers, and the REF’s role in supporting collaborative research.

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Consultation on Fulfilling our potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice (January 2016)

This document forms our response to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills higher education green paper – Fulfilling our potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice. The paper proposed the creation of a Teaching Excellence Framework to monitor quality of teaching in Higher Education Institutions and a number of changes to the Higher Education landscape. Our response highlights concerns that we have around the proposed format of the Teaching Excellence Framework particularly in terms of the administrative burden it may create for teaching staff. It also contains our response to the Nurse Review and its implementation.

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Health Select Committee inquiry on public health post-2013 (January 2016)

This document forms our response to a short overview inquiry from the Health Select Committee examining the public health landscape two years on from the reforms of the Health and Social Care Act. In our submission we focus on the performance of England’s national immunisation programme, specifically examining coverage levels for key vaccines on the routine childhood schedule. We highlight the fact that England continues not to meet the minimum World Health Organisation mandated targets for select vaccines as well as the wide variations in coverage that exist across local authority areas. We argue that poor coverage in specific areas needlessly exposes individuals to dangerous infections and threatens the emergence of disease outbreaks, such as that which occurred in the national measles epidemic in 2012/13. Our evidence also highlights the importance of maintaining expenditure for vaccines, particularly in light of the Government’s decision to drive annual savings of 3.9% from the public health budget.

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House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry on the relationship between EU membership and UK science (December 2015)

In this submission to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee we highlight the influence that our membership of the European Union has on science conducted in the UK. Funding is one area of focus and this document highlights the extraordinary success that UK institutions, and scientists more generally, have in leveraging European sources of funding. We also outline the importance of one of the EU’s fundamental principles, the right to free movement, and the important role this has in facilitating not only the unimpeded flow of students, researchers, and skilled workers, but also the fluid transmission of ideas, innovations, and knowledge into and out of the UK.

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Consultation on changes to the statutory scheme to control the prices of branded health service medicines (December 2015)

In this letter, submitted as a response to the Department of Health’s consultation on changes to the statutory scheme to control the prices of branded medicines, BSI Clinical Secretary Dr Sofia Grigoriadou urges the Department to exempt immunoglobulin products from the new proposals. Immunoglobulins are a first line treatment for many primary immunodeficiency disorders and changes to pricing could hamper provision of these vital products to patients by compounding issues of supply and difficulties inherent in the production process.

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Science and Technology Committee inquiry on Science in emergencies: UK lessons from Ebola (September 2015)

In our response to the Science Committee’s inquiry on the lessons learned from Ebola we urge the Government to capitalise on its strengths in immunological research to better prepare for future outbreaks of known or unknown communicable diseases.  We believe this is best achieved through the creation of an integrative network of research centres (a “UK Vaccines Network”) where academia, the NHS, and the private sector collaborate to build a pipeline of new vaccines and treatments under a common framework and following a nationally agreed framework.

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CaSE survey on immigration (September 2015)

The BSI responded to a CaSE call for evidence seeking views on the impact of immigration on UK science and the effect of existing Government policy on the UK’s ability to attract the best scientists from around the world. You can read our response here.

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Science and Technology Committee inquiry on the science budget (September 2015)

We fed into the Commons Science and Technology Committee inquiry into the Science Budget. As you will read in our evidence, the BSI is concerned that the level of Government investment in science and research falls below our international peers. Moreover, the real terms protection of the research budget, much welcomed at the beginning of the last parliament, has in fact translated into a real-terms decrease in funding over the course of the last five years. We are concerned over the effect this has is having on the availability of grants and funding for immunologists and call for the Government to commit to a much needed programme of investment in the upcoming Spending Review.

Read the full written evidence >