An evaluation of the Integrative Pharmacology Fund: Lessons for the future of in vivo education and training.

James Lowe, Michael Collis, Gail Davies, Sabina Leonelli, David Lewis, Anna Zecharia

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Executive summary

This report is the product of an evaluation of the Integrative Pharmacology Fund (IPF) conducted by the British Pharmacological Society in collaboration with the University of Exeter between October 2015 and July 2016. The purpose of the evaluation was to identify the outcomes of the IPF and assess the extent to which it has supported sustainable solutions to the in vivo skills gap, in the context of a changing landscape for the demands and delivery of in vivo research. The IPF was launched in 2004 to sustain the capacity for in vivo education, training and research in higher education, and to foster improvements to animal welfare, the 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement of the use of animals in research) and research outcomes. In this
report, we evaluate the outcomes of the IPF against the following criteria:
To what extent has the IPF contributed to improving community capacity for in vivo education, training and research?
To what extent has the IPF contributed to individual career development?
To what extent has the IPF contributed enhancements to research practice and outcomes?
To what extent has the IPF contributed to development of research networks, dissemination and collaboration?

The findings of this report are based on quantitative and qualitative analyses. A quantitative survey was used to compile key metrics concerning the use of in vivo skills in the subsequent careers of undergraduates, postgraduates and postdoctoral researchers who received IPF-funded education, training or grants. Data were also compiled from undergraduate end of module/course evaluations. In-depth qualitative interviews were then conducted with participants involved in different strands of the IPF-funded activities, in order to acquire a fine-grained understanding of the local impacts of the IPF intervention, compare research needs, organisational contexts and requirements in relation to in vivo training across institutions and groups, and identify ways forward for the future.

The key findings of the evaluation are as follows:
The IPF initiative successfully increased the capacity of in vivo education, training and research in academic institutions, at least partially off-setting projected losses due to retirement;
There are enduring concerns about the retention of in vivo skills and how best to build sustainability through local investments in people with those skills;
The careers of those supported by the IPF continue to benefit from the support received, with notable levels of follow-on grant success, collaborative network-building and growth in personal reputations;
The education and training received by students was of high quality, and contained substantial material on experimental design, animal welfare and the 3Rs;
The in vivo researchers appointed as a result of the IPF have enabled colleagues who are not in vivo scientists to pursue new lines of research, including some of a more translational nature;
The Integrative Mammalian Biology (IMB) centres were strong local networks
of researchers and students that helped foster collaborations and the sharing of current good practice;
The the Experimental Officer role at The University of Manchester provides a novel and successful model for skills retention, training, monitoring of animal welfare, forging collaborations and sharing of current good practice.

The report makes recommendations on how in vivo research skills in the UK can be best supported in the future, drawing lessons from the implementation and impact of the IPF. These recommendations are summarised here, accompanied by key principles that emerged from the evaluation and which should inform
future initiatives and their conduct. Throughout the evaluation section, we have identified recommendations that derive from the conclusions we reached. At the end, there is a detailed examination of each recommendation, and the further steps we propose to work towards fulfilling them.

The recommendations build upon the lessons learned from the evaluation to suggest efficient methods of assessing and conducting in vivo training and education, and fostering new collaborations and the adoption of good practice. Reflecting on the model of the IPF itself, we make proposals based upon a partnership approach to funding, coordination and delivery. Potential partners
are suggested but other organisations or individuals are invited to contribute.
The recommendations comprise a mix of proposals that can be easily achieved in the short term, proposals that depend on the development of partnerships
and initiatives and will bear fruit on a medium-term timescale, and proposals for the long term. The recommendations listed here are discussed in full in
Section 5.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon, UK
PublisherBritish Pharmacological Society
Commissioning bodyBritish Pharmacological Society
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


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