Hamish Ogston Foundation and charitable donations to medical research

With an alarming report in the Financial Times suggesting 85% of charitable donations are wasted, Hamish Ogston CBE and his team of expert advisors, explain why thinking creatively and investing in skills and resources development is equally important as donating funds to charitable causes.

Medical research appears to be prima facie an attractive destination for charitable donations. In fact, it is the most popular avenue for charitable donations in the UK. Anything which might enable us to live longer and healthier lives is a prime candidate for our investment. There is a personal perspective as well: we might have seen somebody close to us being destroyed by cancer or we might have had our own battles with illness.

 

As in all things, there is good and bad research. There is enormous pressure on researchers to keep publishing their work in scientific journals as if there is a league table of institutions based on who publishes the most. Researchers who fall behind in their numbers of publications can find themselves moved on and replaced by more prolific souls. Reputations, always precious in the scientific community, are often sustained by quantity rather than quality.

 

The Financial Times (September 2016) published an alarming article: “Where your donations to medical research really go”. It suggested that 85% of donations are wasted, amounting to £170 billion a year worldwide. This equates to 22 out of 26 miles of a marathon run for charity being wasted. It is undoubtedly true that money is wasted, but many would find these claims contentious and point out that medical research contributes in many, less directly obvious, ways to improving the condition of mankind, for example through broader economic prosperity.

 

That there is good and bad research is not a surprise. Ben Goldacre’s 2008 book “Bad Science” is a very good and provocative read, particularly on how some very weak scientific conclusions have managed to be exalted as “proven science” when no such conclusion is permissible.

 

The Hamish Ogston Foundation, however, makes no assumptions – and will carefully scrutinise any application for a donation which is realistic yet has imagination.

 

In fact, a good imagination is often key to medical progress. There are examples of scientific advances which have emerged from the realms of science fiction. For example, in the field of snake antivenom research, the idea that there may one day be a pill that saves a life lights up the imagination. This would mean no more agonising journeys across the country for many miles to a clinic which has run out of intravenous antivenom. A new avenue of research is concentrating on producing oral medication to inhibit the enzymes in snake venom that are responsible for the devastating physical effects. It looks promising. Will farmers go out one day into the paddy fields with their little tin containing a couple of pills, free from worry about the risk from the snakes which live there?

 

The HOF also recognises that we need to keep encouraging able young doctors and scientists to undertake research, especially in the less financially privileged environments of developing countries. These people are the future and I can find no better reason why we should consider donating to research than the views expressed in this short paper by two medical students published in the Kathmandu University Medical Journal in 2007.

 

The HOF also recognises that we need to keep encouraging able young doctors and scientists to undertake research, especially in the less financially privileged environments of developing countries. These people are the future and I can find no better reason why we should consider donating to research than the views expressed in this short paper by two medical students published in the Kathmandu University Medical Journal in 2007.

 

You can find out more about how we work to support charitable causes beyond donations by reading our Applicant Guidelines here.

Contact

The Hamish Ogston Foundation is a UK registered charity
(Charity no. 1185978)

Dixon Wilson
6th Floor
22 Chancery Lane
London WC2A 1LS
United Kingdom