Research funding is fair

October 23, 2008

Tim Birkhead wants a system that is fair for academics ("Why is funding so unfair?", 9 October). The Research Councils' primary obligation is to give a "fair" return on the public's investment.

The UK has a world-class research base and this has been achieved by a system that seeks to challenge researchers to define what questions they wish to answer, how they will answer them, and how they will use their new knowledge to bring societal and economic benefit.

In assessing applications, reviewers consider the capability of the research team to deliver the goods. This system does recognise previous success, but balances it with an assessment of the planned work.

A system that rewarded only past performance would soon stagnate, and would form a high barrier to researchers in the early stages of their careers.

The past decade has seen significant increases in research investment, with improvements in infrastructure, researcher salaries and student stipends. This increased investment should be applauded as it has contributed to the international research standing the UK currently enjoys.

However, despite, or perhaps because of, these funding increases, in some areas at least there are now too many applications in relation to the money available. Recognising that there are dangers in success rates falling too low, we consulted the community to explore how the process could be made more effective and efficient.

Researchers overwhelmingly supported the value of the peer-review system but rejected any idea of us limiting demand.

Lesley Thompson, Research and Development Group chair, Research Councils UK.

Please login or register to read this article

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

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