EPSRC head says team up on rivals

July 4, 2003

Scientists and engineers must work with academics in other fields if the UK is to compete with research in countries such as the US, writes Anna Fazackerley.

Randal Richards, who will take up his post as the new director of research and innovation at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council in October, is pushing for a more multidisciplinary approach to the science it funds.

Professor Richards, head of the department of chemistry at the University of Durham, is also director of the interdisciplinary research centre in polymer science and technology, a collaboration between the universities of Bradford, Durham and Leeds.

He told The THES: "I want to move away from people working in little boxes - silos hardened against working with other silos."

Instead, he hopes the council will be able to fund more teams of people from different disciplines to look at one area of science from multiple perspectives. But he stressed that collaboration would by no means guarantee funding.

"We would encourage collaborative proposals that align with the policies and business plans the council wants pursued. But the major criterion is always excellence," he said.

Professor Richards hopes there will be a culture change within universities with regard to research applications. He is keen to convince departments that their success rates would improve if they concentrated on fewer high-quality proposals.

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