AHRC's research-leave successor scheme praised

January 29, 2009

A scheme to give academics time off from teaching duties to support their research has been unveiled by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The AHRC fellowship scheme has been welcomed by academics who had feared that the research council would offer an inadequate replacement for its popular research-leave scheme.

The new initiative will be more flexible than its predecessor and will include support for early-career researchers, the AHRC said.

"Provision for (them) is indeed welcome, but this new scheme will be more welcomed for looking so like the old one ... (rather) than for offering anything radically new," said Robin Osborne, chairman of the Council of University Classical Departments.

James Ladyman, who represents the British Society for the Philosophy of Science, said: "The new scheme seems to have retained the essential features of the research-leave scheme ... (it) is to be welcomed and the AHRC has done well by listening to its constituency."

The programme will be worth £8 million a year, bringing it in line with its predecessor's funding levels before cuts were made in 2007.

Researchers will be able to extend the duration of their leave by as much as nine months and will be able to take it part time. They can also apply for support for a wider range of research activity and can request travel and subsistence costs.

The requirement that leave periods be tied to sabbaticals has gone, benefiting early-career researchers, who also get a dedicated pathway that includes mentoring.

Gary Grubb, AHRC associate director of programmes, said the fellowship scheme incorporated "some of the best features" of the research-leave initiative but also "significantly improved it". He said, "It is more flexible (with) wider provision."

The scheme will accept applications from September, with a maximum limit of £120,000 per fellowship. The AHRC predicts that success rates will be between 10 and 20 per cent, although it hopes to raise this for early-career researchers.


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