Government-funded research institutes provide equivalent, if not better, value for money than universities, according to the chief executive of the Natural Environment Research Council.
John Krebs studied research institutes' productivity after Sir Robert May, the Government's chief scientific adviser, earlier this year suggested the apparent international cost-effectiveness of UK science may be related to the relatively high proportion carried out in universities rather than research institutes.
In an editorial in the latest NERC News, Professor Krebs compares the percentage of the total published academic output with the number of staff employed in universities and institutes.
He found that universities, without medical schools included, published on average 8.26 papers per staff member between 1981 and 1991, while research council staff on average published 8.43 papers each. Staff numbers were estimated from 1996 data.
He also shows that hospitals and medical schools published on average 6.19 papers per person, with universities and medical schools combined publishing 7.6.
"At this level of analysis, there is no evidence that the research council institutes provide worse value than universities," Professor Krebs writes.