The core objectives of HERG are:
- to undertake high quality, independent and policy relevant evaluative research in collaboration with clinical teams and health service managers, and to publish the research findings in first-rate clinical and health policy journals, which are the major points of reference for the relevant decision makers;
- to contribute to the international development of techniques of economic evaluation and to publish these in the key journals of health economics and health technology assessment;
- to assist researchers from other disciplines appropriately to incorporate elements of economic analysis into the design of their studies and to publish widely in this collaborative mode;
- to provide promising young researchers with an environment and range of experience that can fully develop their capabilities. It should enable them to fulfil the growing need for experienced researchers, able to work independently in developing collaborative evaluative research proposals in the public or commercial research sectors.
Its overall programme focuses on the development, testing and applied use of methods of evaluation. The vehicle for this methodological focus is applied policy-relevant research, principally evaluations of health technologies broadly defined. Within the broad range of applications that are included within the programme, there are a number of clinical areas in which HERG has developed a particular interest and knowledge, for example screening and cardiac services. It enjoys a high reputation amongst clinical groups throughout the UK as being an excellent collaborator.
HERG has a clear disciplinary focus in economics. It works, however, in the context of a broader set of disciplines contributing to health services research. Whilst the majority of our staff have trained as economists, we also recruit staff whose primary discipline is in medical statistics, medical sociology/anthropology, psychology, political science, and as appropriate from specific medical backgrounds. We are able to draw on a wider pool of expertise within the University. For example, HERG actively collaborates with research staff in the Department of Government with its long-standing research interest in evaluation of public services (particularly health, education and research). We have held a number of joint grants with the Simulation and Modelling Group in the Department of Information Systems and Computing to develop and apply the modelling technique of discrete event simulation in a variety of applications. We encourage all staff to develop their expertise in their own discipline, and to explore the areas of methodological overlap and interaction between the disciplines, when applied to relevant empirical questions. Thus our publications reflect both group core interests and individual professional expertise and concerns.
Our most important collaborations are extra-mural and we are working on a wide range of evaluative projects with many of the UK's leading clinical groups, international pharmaceutical and related companies, and other relevant research groups throughout the world.
A steadily expanding stream of research on the 'payback' from research itself is an extension to our focus on economic evaluation. The work, begun for the national Department of Health (DH) in 1993, has been further developed principally to advise the DH and NHS R&D policies. The first main journal publication (Buxton and Hanney, 1996) described the HERG payback framework that consists of a multidimensional categorization of benefits and a model of how to assess them.