About Us

The Policy Research In Science and Medicine (PRISM) unit brings together research expertise from Cambridge-based policy research institute RAND Europe and The Policy Institute at King's College London to advance the emergent field of the ‘science of science’.

The PRISM unit delivers research-based evidence to the UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to support the NIHR’s research strategy, Best Research for Best Health, and it contributes to the science of science policy field in the UK, Europe and internationally.

We support the NIHR by providing timely advice that draws on a wide evidence base, and is relevant to the needs of decision-makers. PRISM’s research brings a wide range of theories and methodologies to bear on key issues and is at the forefront of building a science of science. Combining RAND Europe’s strong portfolio of work on research strategy, analysis and evaluation and academic excellence at The Policy Institute at King’s, the PRISM unit gains insights from research projects in a wide range of contexts and countries.

Ongoing and recently completed PRISM projects include:


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More about the science of science:

Governmental and non-governmental reviews of UK health and science research systems have endorsed a view that analysis of research funding needs to move from a position where the primary objective is solely to make a case for funding to one where the aim is also to improve the effectiveness and value for money of such funding. For example, the Cooksey review (2006) concluded:

‘Research on research’ should help to inform policy decisions on how limited resources can deliver new knowledge where it is most likely to have substantial impact in addressing unmet medical needs. Such research will take time to come to fruition and impact on policy, but we believe, ultimately, it will play a vital part in determining the allocation of scarce resources to the most productive areas of health research.

A 2009 report by the Campaign for Science and Engineering in the UK (CaSE) concluded:

The UK government should build the evidence base necessary to inform its thinking on the impacts of the research base.

Improving the effectiveness and value for money of research funding requires better understanding research performance and the factors that drive improved performance and research success. For example, what kind of science, people, settings and funding mechanisms are most successful in promoting the translation of research from bench to bedside? We also need to develop innovative approaches and methodologies for answering these questions.

More about our research:

Our work focuses on three themes:

  1. Informing the formulation of R&D strategies - including through field reviews and futures studies such as foresight.
  2. Reducing uncertainty in, and supporting decision making through rigorous policy analysis. Examples: bibliometric studies to inform research procurement, peer review processes, scientific career paths and infrastructure needs.
  3. Research evaluation, aiming to assess the impact of research (summative evaluation) or the process by which that impact occurred (formative evaluation).

All three combine to provide a rigorous methodology for exploring science policy, and its effectiveness, in depth. PRISM works across all three of these areas providing a wide perspective and the ability to synthesise our understanding of the science of science.