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The Retrosight approach consists of looking at research that was conducted in the past and, using Payback case studies, tracing that research through to the present day to understand both the extent to which the research has had impacts, within academia and more widely, and how these impacts came about. RAND Europe has conducted three studies based on this approach in different research fields: arthritis research, cardiovascular research and mental health research. Each drew out a set of observations and recommendations for policymakers and research funders in those research fields.

By reviewing and comparing the findings of the three studies, we have identified eight lessons which combine to provide a 'DECISIVE' approach to biomedical and health research funding:

  1. Different skills: Fund researchers with more than just research skills — individuals are key when it comes to translation of research into wider impact.
  2. Engaged: Suggest your researchers engage with non-academic stakeholders to help their work have a wider impact.
  3. Clinical: For greater impact on patient care within 10-20 years, fund clinical rather than basic research.
  4. Impact on society: If you want to have a wider impact, don't just fund for academic excellence.
  5. Size: Bigger isn't necessarily better when it comes to the size of a research grant.
  6. International: For high academic impact, fund researchers who collaborate internationally and support them to do so.
  7. Variety: Simple metrics will only capture some of the impact of your research.
  8. Expectations: Most broader social and economic impact will come from just a few projects.

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This is an independent report by the PRiSM unit, commissioned and funded by the Policy Research Programme in the Department of Health and conducted by RAND Europe and the Policy Institute at King's College London.

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