Academy calls for overhaul of funding system for research at UK universities

November 19, 2003

Brussels, 18 Nov 2003

The UK's national academy of science, the Royal Society, has called for a radical shake up of the way in which researchers and research departments receive public funding.

The UK currently operates a dual support system, whereby individual researchers compete for project funding from the research councils, but funds for infrastructure and indirect costs come from the higher education funding council.

'[T]he current dual support system uses two admittedly different, but certainly burdensome, processes to serve the same end result of putting both direct and infrastructure funding into the best hands,' said President of the Royal Society, Lord May of Oxford, at the launch of the policy document. 'The time has come to stop rearranging the deck chairs on two entirely different ships which ultimately have the same direction.'

While the paper does not propose a replacement system, it suggests that the solution is likely to involve transfers of funds between government departments or agencies.

The Royal Society cites recent reports on aspects of the funding system, each highlighting inadequacies, but calls for a shift from the practice of reviewing certain sections of the system, to a more holistic assessment of the whole funding structure, which is now outdated.

'Fifty years or so ago [...], when the number of UK universities was about one quarter of today's and when the number of researchers was proportionally even smaller, the flexibility attendant on providing essentially everyone with a 'well found laboratory', and then letting individuals compete for project funding, worked well,' states the paper, explaining the justification for the system's introduction. However, it has since become 'impractical to provide every aspiring researcher with the contemporary equivalent of the earlier well found laboratory,' the Royal Society adds. To access the Royal Society's policy document, please: click here

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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