Our strategy for funding research
The current Tommy's research funding model
Tommy’s funds four research centres and one centre focussed on implementing best practice nationally:
- St Thomas’ Hospital in partnership with King’s College, London
- St Mary’s Hospital in Partnership with Manchester University
- Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in partnership with Edinburgh University
- The Tommy's National Early Miscarriage Centre is a partnership of three universities: The University of Birmingham, The University of Warwick and Imperial College London.
- The National Centre for Improving Maternity Care focusses on the scale and spread of evidence based best practice to improve maternity care around the UK.
Tommy’s makes an annual grant of £400,000 - £500,000 per centre against an agreed budgeted spend submitted annually by each centre.
Tommy’s funds salary costs of scientists, doctors and midwives carrying out the research together with consumables and equipment that are used in the research studies.
Tommy’s fund research projects in their entirety or contributes part-funding to research projects in partnership with other funders.
Tommy’s funding remit is miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth and conditions in pregnancy which may lead to those outcomes such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, obstetric cholestasis, mental health or “lifestyle” factors which increase the risk of these outcomes such as obesity, diet, smoking.
Tommy’s focuses funding on the pregnancy period and does not fund research in assisted conception research such as IVF treatments nor research on the baby such as care of pre-term babies – this is to focus our limited research investment to attain maximum benefit for parents.
Management of medical research grants
Each centre submits an annual budget which is challenged by the CEO before being scrutinised and approved by the Trustees at their meeting in November each year. Funding for the following financial year is approved and accounted for in the current financial year thus ensuring that Tommy’s is always able to fulfil the investment commitment it makes. Tommy’s makes an annual grant for the financial year 1 April to 31 March. Tommy’s does not commit funding for more than one year at a time.
Spend against the budget is monitored by the CEO and Finance Director through-out the year. A grant cannot be carried over from one financial year to the next. Any funding that is unspent at the end of the year is returned to Tommy’s reserves. Centres are not permitted to overspend their allotted budget.
Managing conflicts of interest
Tommy’s does not fund the work of the research expert Trustee/s who sit on the Board of Trustees, or the institution to which they belong. Should this change the Trustee stands down from the Board with immediate effect.
No individual who will benefit themselves (or their institution) from a grant is permitted to be involved in making any funding decision.
The Board of Trustees makes all decisions with regards to funding and their decision is final.
Tommy's conflict of interest policy (50 KB pdf)
Communicating our research results
We summarise the contents of the annual research reports for each centre and the impact reports and make this information available on the Tommy’s website www.tommys.org - it is updated at least annually.
We communicate research findings on social media such as emails, Facebook and Twitter and on broadcast and in print media when appropriate.
Reporting back on how the funds are spent
Each centre produces an Annual Report in November each year detailing the progress of each project funded by Tommy’s (either in full or in part) and outlines projects that will be funded in the next financial year. The report has both an expert and lay summary facilitating its understanding and dissemination to all stakeholders.
Each centre produces a Research Impact Report in November each year which details a number of measures covering input, throughput and output measures:
- Total grant income
- Staff: Principal Investigators, research staff and other research staff
- Number of peer reviewed papers published and impact factor for each journal and the citation metrics for each paper
- Conference presentations including prizes won and oral and poster presentations
- Esteem indicators
- Additional funding leveraged from the Tommy’s grant
- New tools for research
- Training in obstetrics such as contributions to textbooks, teaching and PhD/MSc students
- Impact on health policy and guidelines such as NICE, NHS clinical improvement groups, RCOG guidelines
- Products and inventions including patents
- Research findings which have significantly contributed to health improvement
Peer review of our research centre activities
Tommy’s organises a peer review of each centres’ activities every year. Reviewers are selected from the UK and also outside the UK, to ensure independence. The CEO gathers suggested reviewers names from the research expert Trustee/s and two or three are approached to ask them to attend a peer review meeting alongside the Tommy’s Trustees who make up the Medical Research Group, together they make the Review Panel. The reviewers are sent copies of the annual report and impact report for each centre. The centres are invited to present to the Review Panel and this is followed by questions and discussion. Tommy’s makes notes of each review and they are shared with the centre and circulated to the Trustees. Actions are followed up by the CEO to ensure they are implemented. Common themes are explored at a meeting of the Centre Directors and further group actions agreed.
The Review Panel are asked to consider and make comments on the following areas:
- What do you consider to be the areas of research strength and weakness?
- Any comments on the quality of research leadership and up and coming talent?
- Should the centre concentrate on fewer, more or different research areas?
- Do they demonstrate that their research activity is part of a clear strategy and plan?
- What would you consider outstanding (individuals or areas of research)?
- What impact does the centre have on clinical care?
- Is the centre focussed on Tommy's core goals to reduce miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth?
- How do the outputs compare to other leading centres both in the UK and abroad?
- Any other comments you might like to add
- Suggest up to three challenges for improvement.
Find out more about our peer review process
Measuring the impact of our funds
Tommy’s collects a range of impact data from an annual impact report completed by each centre.
Tommy’s focuses on measuring input, throughput, output and outcome measures which link to our goal to reduce miscarriage, preterm birth and stillbirth.
Applying for Tommy’s funding
Every five years or so Tommy’s Trustees make a decision to fund a new research or implementation centre and agree what area they would like to focus on. The CEO writes a brief and a set of selection criteria and all relevant organisations including Universities with a medical school and medical research interests are encouraged to apply.
All applicants are then visited by the CEO to ensure they have understood the requirements of the brief and are given feedback to improve their submission.
All applicants present to a selection committee made up of external research/implementation/policy/parent experts chaired by a Trustee with relevant expertise. All applications are scored by the members of the committee against the criteria set out in the brief. The committee advises whether any of the proposals are not fundable for whatever reason, such as the quality of the proposal. The CEO compiles the scores and the panel are asked to recommend the winning bid to the Trustees for agreement.
All research/implementation centres are subject to a contractual agreement which sets out how the relationship will work and the expectations that Tommy’s has of the new research centre covering items such as Intellectual Property Rights, annual reporting, double funding, accounting for expenditure and many other areas.
Future funding plans
The Trustees have agreed to fund research fellowships in the future; they will be five-year research programmes focusing on reducing miscarriage, preterm birth and stillbirth. These fellowships will be widely publicised when they become available and all health professionals will be eligible to apply as long as their research programme is aligned to Tommy’s goals to reduce miscarriage, preterm birth or stillbirth.
Tommy’s is a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and abides by all the requirements set out by that organisation.
The Medical Research Conflicts of Interest Policy relates to all committees and funding panels of the charity, their chairs and other members, including trustees of the charity.
Animals in research
Tommy’s supports the AMRC statement on research involving animals. Tommy’s research is mostly carried out in the patient or uses human tissue such as uterine tissue or placental tissue. Occasionally Tommy’s does fund research studies using mice or rats where it is not ethical to carry out these studies in humans.