Sci. Aging Knowl. Environ., 14 November 2001
U.K. Researchers Mind the Gap: New collaboration patches cracks in research on aging
Key Words: National Collaboration on Ageing Research NCAR United Kingdom Research Council
Abstract: To address quality-of-life issues related to aging--many of which lie in the spaces between traditional scientific disciplines--four British research councils launched the National Collaboration on Ageing Research (NCAR) at a conference held in Birmingham on 12 November. These agencies, each of which runs its own program on aging, will now collaborate to identify and eventually sponsor joint projects. "It is imperative that we bring together the different research efforts," says Alan Walker, a social scientist and director of NCAR. "The U.K. is simply not getting the maximum impact from researchers who are locked in disciplinary pigeonholes." The councils--which fund research on biotechnology and biology; medicine; economics and social science; and engineering and physical sciences--will also team up with governmental agencies "to shorten the time it takes to translate research output into policy and practice," says Walker.
The impetus for the collaboration flowed from AgeNet, a U.K. governmental initiative that established a Web site and held workshops to stimulate research in the field of aging. When funding for AgeNet ended in March 2000, the research councils and the Department of Health decided to keep the AgeNet Web site alive and develop a coordinated approach to research on aging. During the next year and a half, Walker, as director of the Growing Older Programme for the Economic and Social Research Council, gained backing from the British government and the financial support to manage the collaboration--although there is still no pot of money to fund specific projects. "It's been a long time coming, and it's taken a lot of backroom effort to convince key players, but we've had an absolutely massive response from scientists," he says.
Some possible ideas for joint projects include using medical, engineering, and social science expertise to improve access to transportation or design better living environments for seniors; using biological, health care, and social science resources to help older people regain independence after a stroke or major injury; and getting biotechnologists, engineers, doctors, and social scientists to explore high-tech solutions to the needs of homebound people.
As these ideas develop, the research councils will prepare for the next step: creating a funding route to make the projects happen. This phase of the project will require that councils commit some of their money to NCAR programs, an act that might meet some resistance. But if NCAR succeeds, the potential payback in quality of life for Britain's elderly should be worth the effort.
UK National Collaboration on Ageing Research http://www.shef.ac.uk/ukncar
Citation: K. Miller, U.K. Researchers Mind the Gap: New collaboration patches cracks in research on aging. Science's SAGE KE (14 November 2001), http://sageke.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sageke;2001/7/nw27
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