News in brief

December 8, 2011

Research funding

Don't 'micromanage', says Nurse

Funders should avoid "micromanaging" research and requiring applicants to set out the impact of their proposals, according to the president of the Royal Society. Sir Paul Nurse used his annual anniversary address last week to urge funders to pay more attention to the quality of applicants and less to the details of their proposals. "The objective is not to simply support those that write good-quality grant proposals but those that will actually carry out good-quality research," he said. Applicants should instead be assessed on the basis of their past performance or, for early-career researchers, in a face-to-face interview, he suggested. Sir Paul added that "well-intentioned" attempts to draft research priorities and stipulate budgets should be avoided because such initiatives "may attract less creative and effective scientists who simply follow where resources are being made available". Furthermore, he pointed out, the committees drawing up such priorities typically consist of senior researchers who may be out of touch and were therefore "prone to coming up with the rather obvious and being behind the cutting edge".

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Journal subscriptions

RLUK signs deal with Elsevier

Research Libraries UK has reached a "new and improved" deal with the journal publisher Elsevier, which ends a four-month stand-off between the two. Earlier this year, RLUK said that it would not renew the "big deals" to secure access to the entire journal portfolios of Elsevier and fellow publishing company Wiley-Blackwell if they did not make "significant real-terms price reductions". In late October, Wiley-Blackwell announced that a three-year deal had been reached with Jisc Collections, the negotiating body for libraries, on "mutually beneficial terms". Announcing last week that a five-year deal had been struck with Elsevier, RLUK estimated that the deals with the two publishers will save the sector about £20 million.

Feedback panel

Comment on our content

Times Higher Education is launching a feedback panel to garner regular comments from readers on its magazine and website content. The feedback will be used to inform and shape future content. The panel is open to all Times Higher Education readers, and for every survey you complete you will accumulate panel reward points that can be exchanged for Amazon vouchers. Go to http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/feedbackpanel for more information and to register.

E-infrastructure

Buy something nice, JANET

JANET, the UK's higher education and college IT network, is to benefit from a £31 million grant from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The money is part of a £158 million investment in e-infrastructure announced by the department last week. Funding has also been awarded for specialist supercomputers in areas such as particle physics and astronomy (£19 million) and high-capacity data storage across the research councils (£24 million). A further £6.5 million is being made available to establish a research fund for projects to improve access to e-infrastructure.

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Concerns were voiced last week that if UK universities enter in the research excellence framework only work they judge to be 3* (internationally excellent) or 4* (world leading), anticipating that only these grades will be funded, REF panels might make relative rather than absolute judgements of submissions and create a view of research quality in decline.

A reader writes: "One solution would be to prohibit game-playing - everyone gets submitted, including deans, pro vice-chancellors and vice-chancellors. No departments of 20 with just three submissions. But then Universities UK would not buy that."

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