Blue skies over Atlantic

September 12, 2013

I was surprised to read the article resulting from my interview with Times Higher Education as it puts a bit of a negative gloss on a win-win situation (“US rules apply to joint research, UK funder admits”, News, 5 September). Research Councils UK and the US National Science Foundation have put an agreement in place for researchers wishing to apply for UK-US collaborative research funding, which is good news for the research community and a step forward in enabling Anglo-American collaborations.

As two of the strongest and best resourced research systems in the world, the UK and the US have long been partners. Now the RCUK-NSF agreement will make the collaborative process as simple and as flexible as possible.

Researchers are now able to apply for collaborative funding through existing responsive mechanisms with a minimum of extra paperwork, allowing international proposals to be directly judged against national ones. The experts, be they researchers or peer reviewers, get to decide if collaboration makes sense. This not only strengthens existing research ties between the UK and the US but, by avoiding “double jeopardy” in funding applications, also removes some of the barriers facing international collaboration.

As a two-way lead agency agreement, the RCUK-NSF deal allows for peer review to be managed through one agency’s systems, saving work for applicants and funders. Both the UK and the US do, however, remain fully involved in the peer review process. In addition, the normal conditions for funding research for both agencies are in place for collaborative arrangements.

Transatlantic blue-skies research with a simplified application process is welcome news for both funders and the academic community. We want to encourage researchers to take advantage of this exciting new process.

Paul Boyle
Chief executive, Economic and Social Research Council
International champion, RCUK
President, Science Europe

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