Lessons from the pandemic on the value of research infrastructure
Roope LSJ., Candio P., Kiparoglou V., McShane H., Duch R., Clarke PM.
AbstractThe COVID-19 pandemic has shed a spotlight on the resilience of healthcare systems, and their ability to cope efficiently and effectively with unexpected crises. If we are to learn one economic lesson from the pandemic, arguably it is the perils of an overfocus on short-term allocative efficiency at the price of lack of capacity to deal with uncertain future challenges. In normal times, building spare capacity with ‘option value’ into health systems may seem inefficient, the costs potentially exceeding the benefits. Yet the fatal weakness of not doing so is that this can leave health systems highly constrained when dealing with unexpected, but ultimately inevitable, shocks—such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, we argue that the pandemic has highlighted the potentially enormous option value of biomedical research infrastructure. We illustrate this with reference to COVID-19 response work supported by the United Kingdom National Institute for Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Centre. As the world deals with the fallout from the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression, pressure will soon come to review government expenditure, including research funding. Developing a framework to fully account for option value, and understanding the public appetite to pay for it, should allow us to be better prepared for the next emerging problem.