The Economic and Social Research Council does not spend Pounds 42 million on its programmes as you report - that is the total research budget. The correct figure is Pounds 13 million. We have 25 live programmes, not 28. Far from stifling blue-skies research, we are making available Pounds 15 million through our responsive research grants scheme, which is open to anyone wanting to research whatever in any field. The focus and content of our programmes are not dictated by any single agenda - not the government's, the private sector's or academia's. They emerge from a thematic priorities review with thousands of stakeholders. Is it a surprise that issues such as economic competitiveness, the effectiveness of public services and the quality of life are of concern to the ESRC and government?
Finally, ESRC programme directors are not appointed on the basis of rumours of suitability, but on academic pedigree, management competency and peer references. There is no prior expectation that those commissioned to draw up a programme specification will head it. Indeed, applications are encouraged from the widest possible field.
Gordon Marshall. Chief executive, ESRC.