Council denies neuroscience is target for cuts

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has hit back at accusations that it is singling out neuroscience for cuts.

April 21, 2011

Earlier this year, neuroscientists reacted angrily to a BBSRC policy document that said the council had "reluctantly concluded that demand-led funding is resulting in too great a proportion of funding going to (neuroscience)".

The British Neuroscience Association wrote an open letter of protest, signed by 100 leading UK neuroscientists, arguing that the subject's success in open competition was an indication of its strength in the UK. The letter also quoted Alf Game, deputy director of research, innovation and skills at the BBSRC, estimating that the policy would lead the council to reduce its neuroscience funding by "at least 20 per cent".

In light of talks, the BBSRC and the BNA have issued a joint statement asserting that it was "never the intention of BBSRC deliberately to cut neuroscience funding specifically or disproportionately".

Rather, the council wants to "encourage the neuroscience and psychology community to submit applications that encompass BBSRC strategic priorities".

At present, the council says, 37 per cent of BBSRC neuroscience spending relates to those priorities.

"The BBSRC does not have a set budget for neuroscience, and future funding levels will continue to depend on the quality and relevance of applications received," it adds.

It says researchers can still apply for grants outside the strategic areas, but competition will be "fierce".

The statement also insists that the council's strategy does not entail a reduction in funding for basic neuroscience, which is relevant to all of the BBSRC's strategic priorities.

Baroness Greenfield, Fullerian professor of physiology at the University of Oxford, said it was the BBSRC's job to allocate public money as it saw fit. But she said she would be "saddened" if there were no scope in the funding system for researchers to pursue "the kinds of research they have a passion for".

"You will always do your best work on what you feel the most interested in," she said.

paul.jump@tsleducation.com.

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