Misshapen and incapable

November 3, 2011

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council claims to have consulted the scientific community regarding its "shaping capability" policy aimed at maintaining the UK's global research standing ("EPSRC won't shelve 'shaping capabilities' - but will consult more", www.timeshighereducation.co.uk, 28 October). The community disagrees.

The Royal Society stepped in to ask the EPSRC to pause the programme, but we read that the learned societies are "on board" with it and the mood music is much better. However, most scientists I meet are apoplectic.

We've had disallowed resubmissions, the selective blacklisting of failed applicants and the nonchalant introduction of shaping capability. Now from 15 November, peer review is to be tampered with. "National importance will become a primary assessment criterion alongside research quality," the council states. I wonder which scientists sat around a table and said, "yes, go with that"? Obviously, it's much better for the EPSRC to get scientists to score "national importance" than for it to be charged with violating the Haldane principle.

The council's latest action will further disenfranchise the scientific community and have an immediate negative impact on UK science.

David O'Hagan, School of Chemistry, University of St Andrews

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