The call comes in a statement on multi-institutional collaborations released by Research Councils UK, the UK funding councils, the Technology Strategy Board and the UK Space Agency.
It follows up on comments in the government’s Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth, released last December, that consortia could “tackle large-scale and ground-breaking new research beyond the capabilities of a single institution” and that funding bodies would “establish a principles-based framework for treatment and submission of multi-institutional funding bids”.
Ian Lyne, RCUK’s head of policy, said none of the policies in the statement were new, but it had struck the bodies as a “fair point” that they did not have an explicit statement recognising that a collaborative approach could be “more than the sum of its parts”.
The principles urge researchers to consider collaborations particularly in relation to international and European funding bids.
They also set out how consortia bids will be assessed, and provide reassurance that universities will be able to claim their fair share of credit for collaborative projects in research evaluations.
Dr Lyne was unclear whether the statement would elicit more collaboration, and he was wary of discouraging single-institution bids – particularly from large universities where “getting good interdisciplinary research across [its various departments] can be just as valuable”.
“We just want to give people the confidence to form the collaborations needed for the research they have in mind,” he said.
He also acknowledged that collaboration could not be “forced” because it arose out of relationships between researchers.
“But university management can do more to send the right message and facilitate networking that can sow the seeds of future collaborations, such as arranging joint seminars or funding for small joint projects,” he said.