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Evaluating the payback or impact from expenditure on research

There is increasing interest in assessing the ‘payback’ or wider impacts from health research. Health Economics Theme (HERG) has played a leading role in developing this area, and the pioneering Buxton and Hanney Payback Framework is viewed internationally as one of the major approaches to use in such assessments.

The Health Economics Theme (HERG) payback framework consists of a multidimensional categorisation of benefits from research and a model of how to assess them. The stream of work began for the national Department of Health in 1993 but has expanded in various ways since then. The multi-dimensional framework has been applied in the UK and elsewhere to assess the impacts of an increasingly wide range of health research, including that funded by medical research charities (for example, the Australian National Breast Cancer Foundation) and programmes from research councils, including from the National Institutes of Health in the USA.

Some projects have focussed on developing new ways to assess specific impacts, including a high profile study that estimated the value of UK medical research. The stream of work has expanded more widely to consider how health research systems should best be organised to enhance the impact of their research and improve healthcare systems. It has also been expanded to measure the impact of public policy and involves collaboration with researchers from a broad range of disciplines. For example, recent research into the assessment of the value of culture was jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.