Trust issues

April 12, 2012

Of the 11 sub-themes in the mathematical sciences programme, mathematical physics was the only one ranked "excellent" in international standing by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. Yet it is the only one to be cut because capacity "has grown such that continuing support at current levels risks undermining...other important areas" ("Juggling act earns EPSRC mixed reviews", 5 April).

The council's January 2009 data show spending on mathematical physics as 11.7 per cent of the programme; its April 2011 figures show it was 7.2 per cent. Even allowing for the fact that sub-themes that cross subject boundaries can receive funding from other programmes, the EPSRC figures still show a relative decline. Perhaps it will release the figures on which its claim is based?

A reduction in relative spend on mathematical physics was predicted by the EPSRC in 2009 on the grounds that "very blue sky projects can find it hard to demonstrate impact". This, I suspect, is the real reason for the cut.

The EPSRC says it wants to re-establish trust with the community. This is not a good start.

Michael Duff, Imperial College London

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