The NCRI Cancer Research Database holds detailed information on cancer research funding across the UK. NCRI has been collecting research funding data from its Partners since 2002 in order to understand how money is distributed across various areas of research, which helps to identify any gaps.

Each piece of research funding is coded by cancer site and by research topic, using an international classification system called the Common Scientific Outline. Collecting and processing the data in this way allows individuals and organisations to gain insight into the cancer research funding landscape and means that the data is directly comparable, as the data from every Partner is processed in the same systematic way.

The NCRI has recently carried out an update of the database infrastructure and refreshed the information held. These changes mean that visualising the information is now simpler and will contribute to making the data more accessible. More frequent use of the data will further the impact of the Database through increased coordination of research funding.

Using the data to make a case

Following a request from their External Advisory Board, the Wales Cancer Research Centre (WCRC)* used information from the Database to outline how they fit into the current cancer research funding landscape for Wales as a whole. The WCRC is funded by the Welsh Government and forms a vital part of Health and Care Research Wales’ infrastructure. The NCRI Database provided data collated from all NCRI Partners, including charities, government bodies and research councils, in order to help them with their project.

The WCRC have produced a “Roadmap” from their analysis that allows them to quantify and compare funding information to an extent that would not have been possible without the Database. This includes the funding for different disease sites and the institutions that have received funding, which helped determine geographic spread of research activity across Wales.

It has helped enormously, in putting together a picture of which disease sites receive the most funding, as well as the spread of funding across Wales. For example, although we were aware that Cardiff received the majority of cancer research funding in Wales, it was very helpful to be able to quantify much more accurately the major and minor destinations of cancer research grant income in Wales.

Jo Baker, an Executive Officer working on behalf of WCRC

The analysis has also been an asset in better understanding the Welsh cancer funding landscape and the information has been used in funding bids and presentations to both local and regional audiences. This shows how the use of the Cancer Research Database can aid communication between research centres and external reviewers, and as a result helps guide investment in cancer research.

WCRC plans to update their roadmap annually and share the results with the broader cancer research community, making it possible to identify patterns in cancer research spend over time as well as their impact on the landscape as a whole. This means that this community will be better informed of research funding in Wales and better able to identify key areas where further investment is needed, which will ultimately benefit the public and people affected by cancer.

* The Wales Cancer Research Centre (WCRC) is funded via Health and Care Research Wales