News, Announcements & Press Releases

24. November 2011 15:39

The European Science Foundation’s MED (formerly EMRC) calls for the common use of the Health Research Classification System across Europe

The European Science Foundation’s (ESF) membership organisation for all medical research councils in Europe, the MED (formerly EMRC) (, has today released an ESF-MED (formerly EMRC) Science Policy Briefing (SPB) highlighting the need to utilise the Health and Research Classification System (HRCS) as the common categorisation system for health research in Europe and beyond.

The HRCS is a system, open and freely sourced, that allows for the organisation and analysis of biomedical and health research funding. Its crucial role is to facilitate research management by answering strategic questions about portfolios and investment.

The ESF-MED (formerly EMRC) Science Policy Briefing entitled ‘Health Research Classification Systems – Current Approaches and Future Recommendations’ recognises that the HRCS system, developed by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration, can provide a central health research categorisation system in Europe and internationally, allowing for greater comparison and analysis of research portfolios and research funding.

The European Union (EU) currently represents just 7% of the world’s population, yet for over 30 years the EU has consistently represented around 40% of the world’s scientific output.  With many independent member states, the EU has much greater complexity to its funding and portfolio arrangements than comparators such as the USA, China, Brazil and India.  This means measures to obtain a joined up view of health research across Europe are a strategic necessity. 

The ESF-MED (formerly EMRC) report provides three key recommendations for the HRCS system:

1. Use of HRCS for strategic joint analysis and comparison

Coordination of a common approach is needed across organisations at the national, European and international level.

2. Methodological developments are needed to reduce the cost of classification and increase flexibility

More investment is needed in methodological developments that would overcome current challenges in research classification. 

3. “Community of Practice”

Establishing a “community of practice” for a common approach, which will work to discuss, agree and share guidelines for the continued, consistent operation of the approach.

Dr Ian Viney, Head of Strategic Evaluation, UK Medical Research Council, says: ‘The opportunities that a wider use of the HRCS presents are not only exciting but essential for the development of the European Research Area.  A common language for classifying health research portfolios improves communication, supports evaluation, and identifies strategic opportunities with other research organisations. On top of this, the potential cost savings from uniformed operational processes are significant’.

Professor Liselotte Højgaard, MED (formerly EMRC) Chair, says: ’23 out of our 36 member organisations have already endorsed this ESF-MED (formerly EMRC) Science Policy Briefing and this will only increase. The HRCS is an invaluable system that will act as a fundamental bridge to our current member organisations and allow for greater research management. The HRCS is crucial for the development of a common system that we know is fundamental for the sharing of information’.

The HRCS is an approach which is gaining greater acceptance among research organisations that support health and health-related research. The HRCS is now in use in the UK (where over 20 research organisations have used it), Ireland, Sweden, Norway and outside of Europe in Singapore and Canada. 

The ESF-MED (formerly EMRC) SPB report ‘Health Research Classification Systems – Current Approaches and Future Recommendations’ is available online at

Notes to editors
For more information, please contact

Tom Reast, Kaizo
+44 (0) 207 3176 4721

About ESF
The European Science Foundation (ESF) is an independent, non-governmental organisation that promotes collaboration in scientific research, funding of research and science policy across Europe. Its members are 78 national funding and research-performing organisations and learned societies from 30 countries.

About MED (formerly EMRC)
The European Medical Research Councils (MED (formerly EMRC)) is the membership organisation for all the Medical Research Councils in Europe under the ESF. The mission of the MED (formerly EMRC) is to promote innovative medical research and its clinical application towards improved human health.