Fears of lost opportunities for emerging talent

July 25, 1997

Industry support for setting up a Pounds 500-million loan scheme for supporting top university laboratories is less than enthusiastic.

Paul Leonard of the Chemical Industries Association says its members are treating the initiative with "a healthy degree of scepticism". Responsibility for all support for pure research and teaching in universities lies with the Government, he says.

On the proposal to launch the Industrial Partnership Development Fund, Dr Leonard says: "Industry in general would welcome anything Dearing can do to lessen the confusion and bureaucracy surrounding university-industry schemes."

Dr Leonard welcomes Dearing's proposal to make it more attractive for departments to drop out of the research assessment exercise. "There is no future in research for departments rated one and two."

Ken Pounds, chief executive of Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, said of the report: "There seems to be an acceptance that dual support should stay and I agree."

On the proposal to create an Arts and Humanities Research Council, Ron Amman, chief executive of the Economic and Social Research Council, said it would be a "historic" opportunity. But he warned: "We need to look closely at the financial details. We would not want the AHRC to be funded at the expense of the social sciences or the science base as a whole."

John Mulvey of Save British Science said: "It is clearly welcome that Dearing insists research councils pay full indirect costs. It is essential that the Pounds 110 million is new money." He fears that greater RAE selectivity may restrict opportunities. "By dropping those getting 3b and below, it will release 4 per cent of the total funding council budget for research. That will not make a difference when talking about an underfunding crisis. It means a narrowing of opportunities for talent to emerge. 3b departments are not totally duff - they are still achieving national excellence."

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