The Association of University Teachers has called on ministers to investigate drastic cuts in cash for top-rated Alpha research projects by the Medical Research Council.
The MRC says a financial crisis has forced it to reduce support so much that only 30 per cent of Alpha projects received funding this year, compared with 70 per cent last.
The MRC has blamed the crisis on the Government requirement for commercial resourcing of medical research projects to be matched by the research council. This has meant siphoning off funds for Alpha research to lower-level work, the MRC claims.
The AUT is urging ministers to call for a detailed disclosure by the MRC of where the Alpha money has gone.
David Triesman, AUT general secretary, said the projects were important enough to warrant an investigation, even though there was a danger that news of a funding crisis could prompt a new brain drain.
Jane Lee, director of corporate affairs at the MRC, said that the council would be discussing what has happened to its funding with the director general of the research councils.
This would be part of the "normal round of exchanges" that happens before the public expenditure round and the allocation of the science budget at the end of the year.