Quality retreat

May 10, 2012

Regarding your article on the balance between quality-related (QR) and research council funding ("Hands off the funding sacred cow?", 3 May): one major difference between the sources is the way that money reaches individual researchers. Research council cash is allocated to individual projects based on merit. The peer-review system may not be perfect, but it is a nationwide contest that anyone can enter and that makes a good attempt to reward the best. Small grants in particular are the lifeblood of many innovative projects and I would love to see more of them.

In contrast, QR money is spent according to the whims of each university. This can be haphazard and determined largely by politics (who shouts loudest and networks best). There are seldom open inter-university contests to allocate funds to the best research. Nor would such contests be easy to organise, because no one can judge if a physics project is better than a psychology project.

When it comes to funding the best research in the UK, directing a larger proportion of the budget to the research councils and reducing that allocated to QR must be the way to go. Please, more of the former and less of the latter.

Name and address withheld

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