Biomedical research needs to speak with one voice
The subject is too important for everyone – patients, the public, and the economy – to suffer from the effect of fragmented messages.
With many organisations involved in advocacy for medical science on different levels, you might well ask just what another one can add. However, with a growing number of relevant decisions being taken at European level, the existence of an organisation that can speak for all the major disciplines in medical research and practice, i.e. the BioMed Alliance in Europe, is increasingly important. As a not-for-profit organisation representing leading European societies devoted to medicine and biomedical research that bring together more than 400,000 researchers and health professionals, the BioMed Alliance is well placed to provide expertise and informed opinion to those who take decisions across the whole field of biomedical science.
The BioMed Alliance acts as a unified voice for its members and presents their views in a cohesive and comprehensible form to policymakers, thus avoiding their having to wade through many diverse viewpoints on the same subject. Providing such a service to its members is the core of BioMed’s mission. On this note, we were a major partner in the preparation of the final Horizon 2020 proposal, including the creation of a Scientific Panel for Health (SPH). The SPH is a science-led expert advisory group to the European Commission aimed at providing scientifically focused analysis of research and innovation, identifying bottlenecks as well as opportunities, and making strategic recommendations.
Our broad membership base means that we are also able to carry out large-scale surveys of views on existing pan-European schemes and suggest ways in which they could be improved. Regarding Horizon 2020, we surveyed our members in 2015 on their experiences of the programme. The results were enlightening, suggesting the need for urgent changes in some areas, and we fed them back to the Commission. The results are published here. We hope they will lead to improvements in the future.
For organisations in the medical field, high standards are of utmost importance. In this context, we have developed a Code of Conduct for healthcare professionals and scientific organisations, which has been adopted by all our members. The Code of Conduct sets out the core principles required in order to maintain and enhance professional independence, objectivity, and scientific integrity. Other important issues on which we have focused include changes to the EU Data Protection Regulation, the EU research budget, and to initiatives that may hamper research for the advancement of medical options for European patients, for example one calling for the abandonment of animal experimentation. You can find more information here. BioMed Alliance statements followed up by meetings with decision makers have contributed to positive developments in these areas, including data protection regulation and securing the Horizon 2020 budget.
We are strongly committed to promoting excellence in European biomedical research and innovation with the aim of improving the health and well-being of all European citizens. The ageing of the population means that today more than 10 million European citizens suffer from chronic disease. And chronic disease affects more than 14% of Europe’s working population. This constitutes not just a burden to the affected individual, but also to the economy. We need policymakers to understand the importance of this situation and to be able to find ways of dealing with it. This means more than finding extra money to pay sickness benefits; rather, it means finding money to support the relevant medical research projects that can help people live healthier lives and continue to be active.
This is certainly ambitious in an environment where decisions about how money should be spent are often made on short-term considerations. But it takes a long-term perspective towards health of the population and investments in the future rather than only fixing things on a temporary basis. My view is that the people involved in medical progress including research and practicehave to ask for this, or it’s not going to happen. At BioMed Alliance and our member societies, we do ask and keep on doing so on a regular basis.
Professor Axel Pries, President of BioMed Alliance.