Some years ago the Medical Research Council examined the trends in
research projects it supported. A wide disparity between clinical and
laboratory based projects was observed. The Council moved to redress
the imbalance and achieved a significant increase in clinical research.
Currently the two biomedical approaches are exactly on a par with one
another, as assessed by the crude estimate of the number of grants apportioned
to each. It is time again to re-examine the distribution of research
support within the two areas and to evaluate the effective coverage in each.
In clinical research the bulk of the support is channelled into internal
medicine and its sub-disciplines. Nearly 40% of the grant budget is so
expended; most of the awards go to support cardiovascular, gastroenterologica1,
haematological and metabolic studies. The small balance
of clinical support remaining is apportioned about equally between
surgical and paediatric investigations. Notable gaps are evident. In
neuropsychiatry, obstetrics, gynaecology, neurology, neurosurgery, clinical
oncology and medical genetics the Council's support is rarely requested.
All represent spheres of intense biomedical activity with problems germane
to public health and susceptible to solution by appropriately
subsidised research. Such subsidy, if required, should correctly be derived
from an expansion of the budget.