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UKCRC Health Research Classification System

Use of the HRCS

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Who uses the HRCS?

The HRCS has been used extensively in the UK, primarily among those funders that have participated in the quinquennial analysis series. Many now routinely classify all awards under HRCS, for both internal reporting and for reports in the public domain. Several funders also make their awards, and corresponding HRCS coding, publicly available (e.g. MRC awards via Gateway to Research, and NIHR via Journals Library).

As an open source classification system the HRCS is not restricted to the UK alone, and a number of research organisations have taken the HRCS for use internationally. However it is presently hard to track the who, where, how of this use is applied.

This page is dedicated to use of the HRCS outside of the core report series. This use can vary considerably, from reports from funders who have participated in the analysis series to external organisations using HRCS-coded funder data to perform more elaborate analyses.

For wider reporting on  the main HRCS report series, the UK Health Research Analyses, please visit our Reports section.

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HRCS in strategy and policy

HRCS in routine reporting

As a universal classification system, the HRCS adoption by many UK funding organisations ensures it features in many annual reports or policy documents. Examples include:

National Audit Office highlights HRCS as an example of inter-funder coordination

In 2017, the National Audit Office’s report on Cross-government funding of research and development highlighted the HRCS and it’s use in nationwide landscape reporting as a effective exemplar of where funders have categorised research activities, developed a coherent picture of the funding landscape and used this to direct their investment (see case study on page 38).

Medical Research: What’s it worth? Estimating the economic benefits from medical research in the UK

This report commissioned in 2008 by the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust and Academy of Medical Sciences demonstrated major financial and social benefits from investment in medical research. The report also made a number of recommendations for future consideration, including the adoption of a standardised way of classifying research funding, citing the HRCS as an example.

A review of UK health research funding – Sir David Cooksey (December 2006)

In March 2006, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretaries of State for Health and Trade and Industry invited Sir David Cooksey to undertake an independent review to advise on the best design and institutional arrangements for the public funding of health research in the UK. The primary data source for this review was the HRCS data from the UK Health Research Analysis 2004/05.

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HRCS: International Use

As an open source classification system the HRCS is not restricted to the UK alone, and a number of research organisations have taken the HRCS for use internationally. Examples of this include:

  • European Science Foundation recommending HRCS as international standard. In a policy briefing paper from 2011 the ESF reviewed a number of biomedical funding classification systems (OECD, ANZSRC, RCDC, MeSH, CSO and HRCS) and concluded that the use of the HRCS is encouraged as the leading approach for comparison and joint analysis of specifically health research portfolio information.
  • The US Health Research Alliance has 75 charitable and philanthropic members that fund health research many have contributed grant data to a new HRA Reporter database which is coded using the HRCS, and is used in their wider reporting on health research.
  • Presentations at international conferences including at EuroCRIS in 2013. Founded in 2002, EuroCRIS is an international not-for-profit association, that brings together experts on research information in general and research information systems (CRIS) in particular.

In particular, the Research Council of Norway and Norwegian Ministry of Health use the HRCS in many reporting processes, including:

  • Classification of scientific publication by the Health Research Classification System (HRCS). A pilot study (Nordic Institute for Studies of Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) 2016, in Norwegian) – link here
  • Presented at the 21st Nordic workshop on bibliometrics and research policy, Copenhagen 2016 (slides and abstract in English) – link here
  • HelseOmsorg 21 monitor programme is an analysis of health research in Norway conducted by the Norweigan Research Council on behalf of the Ministry of Health. It combines data from the Research Council of Norway, Regional Health Authorities, the Cancer Society and EU health funding in Norway.

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HRCS in Journal Publications

A selection of publications that reference the HRCS can be found on publication databases like Europe PubMed.

These include:

  • Sussex et al. (2016). Quantifying the economic impact of government and charity funding of medical research on private research and development funding in the United Kingdom. BMC Med 10.1186/s12916-016-0564-z
  • Hall et al. (2016). Research funding for addressing tobacco-related disease: an analysis of UK investment between 2008 and 2012. BMJ Open 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011609
  • Roh et al. (2016). Mental health services and R&D in South Korea. Int J Ment Health Syst 10.1186/s13033-016-0077-3
  • Viergever et al. (2016). The 10 largest public and philanthropic funders of health research in the world: what they fund and how they distribute their funds. Health Res Policy Syst 10.1186/s12961-015-0074-z
  • Carter et a. (2016).  UK health research analyses and the benefits of shared data. Health Res Policy Syst 10.1186/s12961-016-0116-1
  • Guegan et al. (2016). Mapping public health research across the National Institute for Health Research 2006-2013. BMC Public Health 10.1186/s12889-016-3521-z
  • Adams et al. (2015). Ethical considerations in malaria research proposal review: empirical evidence from 114 proposals submitted to an Ethics Committee in Thailand. Malar J 10.1186/s12936-015-0854-5
  • Kinge et al. (2014). Are the Norwegian health research investments in line with the disease burden? Health Res Policy Syst 10.1186/1478-4505-12-64
  • Nicolau et al. (2012). Research questions and priorities for tuberculosis: a survey of published systematic reviews and meta-analyses. PLoS One 10.1371/journal.pone.0042479
  • Turner et al. (2012). Predicting the extent of heterogeneity in meta-analysis, using empirical data from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Int J Epidemiol 10.1093/ije/dys041
  • Terry et al. (2012). Mapping global health research investments, time for new thinking–a Babel Fish for research data. Health Res Policy Syst 10.1186/1478-4505-10-28
  • Collins (2011). A ten-year audit of traditional Chinese medicine and other natural product research published in the Chinese Medical Journal (2000-2009). Chin Med J (Engl) PMID:21740755
  • Conceição et al. (2011). Public health research systems in the European union. Health Res Policy Syst 10.1186/1478-4505-9-38
  • Davey et al. (2011). Characteristics of meta-analyses and their component studies in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: a cross-sectional, descriptive analysis.BMC Med Res Methodol 10.1186/1471-2288-11-160
  • Kubiak et al. (2009). Common definition for categories of clinical research: a prerequisite for a survey on regulatory requirements by the European Clinical Research Infrastructures Network (ECRIN). Trials 10.1186/1745-6215-10-95
  • Ahmed et al. (2010). Mapping Postgraduate Research at the University of Zambia: a review of dissertations for the Master of Medicine Programme. Med J Zambia PMC3604980
  • Mayor (2006). Report gives snapshot health research funding in the UK. BMJ 10.1136/bmj.332.7552.1230-a

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Other useful websites and related reports

  • World Health Organisation Global Observatory of Health R&D is a centralised and comprehensive source of information and analyses on global health R&D activities for human diseases. It builds on existing data and reports from a wide range of data sources, and gathers new information (where needed and feasbile) with the aim of enabling decisions on priorities in R&D.
  • World RePORT is an open-access, interactive mapping database project highlighting biomedical research investments and partnerships from some of the world’s largest funding organisations. An initial effort was undertaken by of the Heads of International Research Organizations (HIROs), and focused on research performed in Sub-Saharan Africa using data supplied by members. While the investments made in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) remain the focus of World RePORT, the effort has been expanded in 2015 to provide a global view of directly funded research grants, and indirectly funded research collaborations in all LMICs.

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