Letter: The sky's no limit

December 7, 2001

Contrary to your editorial "Free researchers from hand that feeds them" (Opinion, THES , November 23), the Economic and Social Research Council invests substantially in blue-skies research in funded programmes, centres and responsive mode awards. We also encourage and support new researchers through postdoctorate awards, fellowships and small grants.

The ESRC will spend £16 million this financial year on responsive awards for topics of researchers' own choosing, where the principal applicant can be at any stage in a research career and include their own salary costs if they are not an established acad-emic. Small grants of under £40,000 are especially useful to those starting out. We are investing more than £6 million a year in resources and methods that support basic social science research. This year, £4 million was allocated to making world-class data sets freely available to all researchers.

We will spend £24 million on research priorities, where the council uses the same broad range of external, rigorous, peer reviewers as for responsive awards but in open competition in areas such as global poverty, health technologies, risk, devolution and crime.

Andrew Chesher
Ian Diamond
Stephen Wilks
ESRC board chairs

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