Moving forward in Medical Sciences

gavin screaton

I’m hopeful we are now through the worst of the pandemic, and that the severe disease we saw in 2020/21 is behind us. But I’m conscious that we, as individuals, family groups, and the University community, still continue to face considerable pressures – be it the cost of living crisis, or the effects of the environmental crisis that are increasingly evident. It is natural to worry about how these things may play out over the next few years, but I also feel strongly that now is not the time to stop moving forward. Across the University we must continue to build capacity so that we can proactively manage these known and unknown challenges. The very fact that we were able to develop, manufacture and circulate a vaccine within a year was because we had the right foundations in place, allowing us to respond agilely. We can only deal with increasing challenges if we start planning now: slowing progress at this point would be harmful, as these challenges are going to require many years of funding and support. 

In Medical Sciences, we are doing just that. We are developing our science base with two globally significant capital projects – the Institute of Global Health and the Pandemic Sciences Institute – both of which build on our recent successes by bringing together Oxford’s significant expertise in tackling major global issues that affect us all. We’ve also seen significant progress in our basic science facilities, with the opening this year of the Institute of Developmental and Regenerative Medicine, a state-of-the-art building intentionally designed to enhance collaborative working; the extension of the Biochemistry building, now renamed the Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Building and housing researchers from both Medical Sciences and MPLS; and the ongoing build of the Life and Mind Building, which aims to significantly improve how we teach and research the biological and psychological sciences. 

At the same time we are listening to our people and ensuring their careers and personal development are better supported. In Medical Sciences we’re invested in improving research culture: we have established a Research Staff Forum with representatives from all our departments to make sure the needs of researchers are being understood, and we are working closely with colleagues in other parts of the University to enable meaningful change. We have supported projects with exciting potential to contribute to positive research cultures, such as an inclusive leadership programme currently being piloted across our Wellcome Centres and celebrating the breadth of team contributions to our research. 

Today’s challenges require a critical mass of multidisciplinary action to address; this includes a strong basis of science, both fundamental and clinical, but also needs to draw on expertise from colleagues across the disciplines. So as we in Medical Sciences continue to move forward, I’m also very pleased to see significant investments outside of the sciences, such as The Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, which similarly aims to 'encourage experiential learning and bold experimentation through cross-disciplinary and collaborative study'. I am ever hopeful that, with colleagues across the University, Oxford will continue to make an impact positively across the world and for future generations.