Get more winners in grant lottery 1

July 28, 2006

Tim Birkhead's column "The UK's great £19.5m lottery"

(Working Knowledge, July 21) has implications beyond the dishing out of grant funding. It resonates with recent articles and letters about the high level of insecurity that short-term contracts generate.

The historical requirement for such contracts arises as much from the way that Research Councils UK funds research as from the motivation of universities. Money is a big driver and the logic isn't difficult to see. RCUK funds three-year project grants, so universities fund three-year contracts. We need to change the driver.

Rather than funding multiple project grants, RCUK could fund each academic on a rolling five-year programme (as happens in the Canadian model Birkhead favours). This stability would benefit academics and those on fixed-term contracts.

The former would be freed from the tyranny of writing multiple repeated grant applications with low chance of success and the latter would know that they had real job stability with a relatively secure income stream.

Genuine long-term partnerships and real blue-skies research could develop.

Universities would be able to properly implement the new European Union legislation on permanency for research staff.

The downside would be the demise of the super-large groups with multiple postdocs; as in Canada, research money would have to be more evenly distributed. But, as Birkhead notes, this is not an issue that the research councils can duck any more.

Chris Cooper
Essex University

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns