More than 300 scientists will gather at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham on Monday to celebrate Britain's first major interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle the issues associated with growing old.
The percentage of the population over pensionable age will rise significantly over the next 20 years, according to the government's Foresight Ageing Population Panel.
The National Collaboration on Ageing Research is a joint venture between four research councils that aims to develop a coordinated approach to ageing research. It could become a model for funding future interdisciplinary science.
Director Alan Walker said: "This is a test case. Ageing research covers a daunting range of science, from basic biology to practical social care."
Professor Walker said the United Kingdom has top researchers in ageing but lagged behind the United States and Europe because of a lack of interdisciplinary collaboration. "The NCAR seeks to address the inconsistent connections between research, policy and practice," he said.
Over the next three years the NCAR, run through Professor Walker's office at Sheffield University's social policy unit, will try to coordinate existing research initiatives to maximise their joint effects. It will identify cross-council multi-disciplinary research proposals and link research groups with European research centres and the EU's sixth framework programme. It hopes to increase the flow and relevance of ageing research to policy-makers and practitioners.
Deborah Dunn-Walters, programme director for the British Society for Research on Ageing, said: "We hope more people will be encouraged into research in ageing."
A Funders Forum of stakeholders that includes research charities will meet bi-annually to help coordinate research. The collaboration will not initially offer any funding, with research councils continuing their own ageing programmes.
The NCAR is a joint venture between the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Economics and Social Research Council and the Medical Research Council.
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