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How do we decide what to fund

28th September 2019

We fund the brightest minds and the boldest ideas. And we search the world looking for these ideas. Because cancer doesn’t care where in the world you live. And science is global. Advances in medicine are made through the sharing of global knowledge.

But how do we decide what to fund? It all starts with the scientist and their bold idea.

Every year, we put a call out to researchers around the world to submit their ideas to us in writing. In their application, they must outline what they hope to achieve with their research and provide detailed scientific explanations of how they will do it. They also provide us with a breakdown of the costs involved so that we can make sure that we make the most of our supporters donations.

Once all the ideas are in, we look through them to make sure that they have included all the required details. We usually get around 400 applications each year.

We ask the experts

We then send all the application to the experts on our Scientific Advisory Committee. They read the and decide if the idea meets the criteria of our Research Strategy.

The applications that make it through (usually between 100 and 150 applications) are then sent out for what we call “peer review”. This is a very important stage that ensures that all applications are reviewed by cancer researchers who are experts in the relevant field. Importantly, all these reviewers are independent of Worldwide Cancer Research, to remove any potential bias or conflict of interest.

After the peer review stage, we are ready for the big decision. Each year we arrange our “Meeting of Minds”. This meeting brings our Scientific Advisory Committee together in one room to discuss the 100 or so applications left on the table. The Committee discuss each application in detail, considering the comments from peer reviewers. After a long day, the Committee is ready to make its recommendation for the ideas that we should fund.

Nothing worth doing is ever easy

This is the most difficult part. We have around £4 million to spend on new research projects each year. This is equal to around 20 projects. This means that we impose a cut-off line after the top 20 ranked ideas. The problem is that there are always more brilliant ideas in the pile then we can afford to fund. So the Committee has to debate. Why should one project get funded over another? It’s a tough decision but one that they must make. We don’t have the money to pay for all the projects we wish to fund.

The good news is that at the end of the day we fund 20 new projects. Twenty bold and brilliant ideas that could one day lead to new cures for cancer. But we must leave behind many other great ideas. Sparks, discoveries, potential cures lost.