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New study into public views on diet and health research published

12 October 2005

A study of the public’s priorities for the funding of research into what people eat and how it affects their health will be published later today (12 October). The study, conducted by MORI Social Research Institute, explores any differences between the agendas of the public and research funders at a time when the health implications of the food that we consume have a very high profile. The study was commissioned by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Institute of Food Research (IFR), who will consider the results as part of their strategic planning for future funding.

The study examined questions such as should research tackle existing diet and health problems or concentrate resources on research to maintain a health diet and prevent health problems in the first place? Should ‘blue skies’ research that may be many years from producing an outcome be publicly funded or would the money be better spent on educating people about healthy eating?

The outcomes of the study will help BBSRC, which invests over £300M of public money in life science research each year, to determine how best to prioritise funding. It is part of a move by the Research Council to have as wide an input as possible into its strategic decision making. The views of the public will be considered alongside those from academia and industry. IFR, sponsored by BBSRC, will look to the results of the study to help develop the strategic vision that will underpin its research agenda for the next decade.

Professor Julia Goodfellow, Chief Executive of BBSRC, said, “BBSRC is committed to wide stakeholder input to inform our decision-making. Projects such as this, investigating public attitudes towards research, are becoming an intrinsic part of how we develop our strategies. Diet and health is a key issue at the moment and will be into the future; the results of this study will be extremely helpful to BBSRC and IFR.”

Dr Gene Rowe, Steering Group Chair, said, “The results from this research have shown that the public have their own specific and highly sensible priorities for what should and should not be funded in the area of diet and health. It is important that those funding research acknowledge and recognise these perspectives and take them into account when thinking about future funding strategies.”

Michele Corrado, Head of Medicine and Science Research at MORI Social Research Institute, said ” We are delighted that BBSRC and IFR have put a finger on the pulse of public opinion at this important time to examine public priorities for research funding in the area of diet and health. The results are most illuminating and provide evidence of public thinking and priorities at a time when discussion about the health implications of consumption of food, and concern about consequences, are probably greater than they have ever been”.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The study of public attitudes to diet and health research was guided by a steering group that included scientists and social scientists from IFR and representatives of BBSRC’s Strategy Panels and Committees.

The study comprised workshops and a national survey and was conducted during spring/summer 2005. The report will be discussed at a meeting chaired by the journalist Martin Ince on 12 October 2005. For more information please contact the BBSRC Media Office.

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

About IFR

The mission of the Institute of Food Research ( http://www.ifr.ac.uk) is to carry out independent basic, and strategic research on food safety, quality, nutrition and health. It is a company limited by guarantee, with charitable status, grant aided by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

About MORI Social Research Institute

Please see http://www.ipsos-mori.com/

External contact

Zoe Dunford, IFR Media Manager

tel: 01603 255111

Michele Corrado, MORI Social Research Institute

tel: 020 7347 3000

Andrew Norton, MORI Social Research Institute

tel: 020 7347 3000

Contact

Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299
fax: 01793 413382

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382