Play Nice: Aussie Report Finds Medical Research & Philanthropy Often at Odds

Health and medical research. Philanthropy. Do you envision them in their respective silos housed on the same mountaintop or city, or even in the same area code? On the same continent? Are they friendly neighbors who talk over the fence, Wilson-style, or are they aloof, strangers to each other?

Whatever the image in your head, a recent study into the relationship between medical research and philanthropy in the realm of childhood cancer research reveals two distant entities often at odds with each other. Donors Without Borders: Rethinking Childhood Cancer Research Funding in Australia was undertaken by the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) and the Australian Lions Childhood Cancer Research Foundation (ALCCRF).

Ok, it’s Australian, but it’s still relevant. There’s a gulf between medical research and philanthropy in this country, too. Medical research, especially the basic science stuff, leans hard on philanthropy to get it out of the ditches of insufficient funding. Research is expensive, childhood cancer is relatively rare, and government funding just keeps shrinking. The two sides need to start playing better together, is what it comes down to.

“Our research found that ‘health and medical research is from Mars and philanthropy is from Venus’,” Project Director Brenda Santiago said. “It found that while it is clear that investing in childhood cancer research is a gamble, increased collaboration is able to dramatically improve the odds.”

In Australia, the philanthropy landscape is complex, crowded with funding hopefuls competing for every donor dollar. Down under, as in the U.S., funders giving to health and medical research are mainly driven by personal experience with a disease. We can’t count on two hands the number of small, upstart philanthropies forging ahead with a passion for one dread disease or another—a passion fueled, in many instances, by personal grief.

In Australia, information about donors, including what they’re invested in and what their pet research projects are, is limited—so those seeking funding are often stymied by a lack of disclosure. We contend with those problems all the time domestically, and IP’s very reason for existing is to enhance transparency in the field. We wish the best of luck to our Aussie counterparts—getting medical research and philanthropy to play nice is as worthy a goal as there ever was.