MPs call for ESRC dedicated pot and more freedom for social sciences

December 24, 2004

A dedicated fund to help address shortages of academics in key social science subjects should be set up by the Economic and Social Research Council, MPs have recommended.

In a report on the council, published this week, the Science and Technology Select Committee says it is "hard to see how significant progress towards rectifying these shortages can be made through deployment of ESRC's limited resources".

The fund would address skills shortages by building local capacity, according to the MPs.

The committee also concludes that the council should allocate more funding to research proposals from academics and decrease that given to research centres.

Ian Gibson, the committee chairman, said: "The ESRC has been doing a good job. It now needs to give academics more freedom, instead of telling them what they can and can't research. The best research ideas come from researchers themselves."

Ian Diamond, chief executive of the ESRC, said there was broad support for the council to boost responsive funding and this would be reflected in future planning.

"We particularly welcome the committee's recognition of the urgent need to build capacity in quantitative social science subjects," he added.

The report recommends emulating other research councils by creating a fund to support new researchers and encourage interdisciplinary work.

The report welcomes the council's consultation on its new strategic framework and future priorities and says the positive feedback from the social science community is a "credit to the council".

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