Do researchers dream of ROPAs?

June 21, 1996

The Office of Science and Technology is planning a survey of researchers' attitudes to a troubled multimillion pound scheme to boost links between industry and scientists.

The Pounds 70 million initiative, the Realising Our Potential Award scheme, came under fire last year because of concern that poor-quality research was being funded at the expense of proven programmes. Last December the Royal Society said that the scheme should be reviewed by an independent body before any expansion. But criticisms of ROPAs have been rejected by science minister Ian Taylor.

In its invitation to tender for the survey, the OST says a key aim is to identify "attitude changes" among both successful and unsuccessful ROPA applicants since the scheme was launched. The survey should also try to determine "the extent to which the ROPA scheme has encouraged researchers to seek collaboration with industry for basic and strategic research".

The survey will cover all researchers who applied for ROPA awards in 1996 and a sample of non-ROPA applicants. The OST's call on research evaluation specialists to bid for the study notes that 873 ROPA applications were received for the 1996 round and that the results will be known in mid-June.

According to the invitation to tender for the survey, the OST wants the study to be carried out in two parts. The first will aim to answer questions such as whether the advent of ROPAs has affected researchers' bids for industrial funding for any research, and what other mechanisms exist for boosting industry-university links and how these compare with ROPAs.

Part two will involve contacting department heads about the attitudes among science and engineering researchers including those who did not apply for ROPAs. The survey will ask whether the scheme has stimulated efforts to secure applicable industrial funding.

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