The bigger, the better

September 29, 2011

Regarding "'Protected' MRC still sees fall in grant winners" (15 September): while slightly fewer grants proportionately were awarded by the Medical Research Council in 2010-11 than the previous year, it is important to note that the size of the awards increased, with the average size across all our grants and fellowships rising by 23 per cent.

By attracting and awarding more large grants - especially to well-established investigators and programmes - the MRC is funding world-class science in a more efficient way, while at the same time operating a rigorous system of peer review that encourages healthy competition.

We will, of course, continue to encourage applications of any size from new investigators and to give them special attention.

The recent Comprehensive Spending Review decisions and our work with universities to encourage high-quality applications are affecting submission and award rates, but this is not reflected in the figures for 2010-11 - the effects will start to show themselves from 2012.

Declan Mulkeen, Director of research programmes, Medical Research Council

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