Research into ageing is uncoordinated, underfunded and sometimes duplicated, say the proponents of a scheme to set up a national centre for ageing research.
The solution is to start a network to bring together disciplines as diverse as engineering, sociology and medicine, all of which make contributions to knowledge about ageing, according to the Royal Society of Medicine, a research unit at the Royal College of Physicians and the charity, Research into Ageing. The network would also provide a "neutral forum to address the disparate implications of an ageing population".
The group has called a meeting for December of 50 leading researchers, industrialists, policy-makers and health services to discuss the need for a centre. It will be chaired by Sir Ron Oxburgh, rector of Imperial College London.
John Green, chief executive of the RSM, said that such a body would eliminate rivalries between researchers: "All the groups working in this area are working in compartments. There is competition between research groups for the same funds so they tend to be slightly guarded."
The network would avoid forming a regional centre of excellence, which "will always fail because of jealousies", said Dr Green.
John Copeland, head of the Institute of Human Ageing at Liverpool University, said that the centre would be useful if it assessed research and coordinated meetings. "What would cause widespread concern," he said, "would be if something was set up which had more of a publicity purpose and didn't really contribute very much to the research community but absorbed funding."
He said that the main problem lies with funding bodies rather than the researchers, because they do not tackle ageing as an individual subject but tack it onto other subjects. Scientists are thus forced to compete for funding across the age range. "There is then a tendency to fund younger age groups," he said.
The move follows a call by the Government's Technology Foresight programme for ageing to be a priority area for research.