Research councils to present a united front

May 3, 2002

The seven research councils will present themselves as one from now on, although there is no likelihood of merger, according to John Taylor, the research councils' director-general, writes Caroline Davis.

Research Councils UK, the committee of heads of the seven research councils, was launched this week by trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt. It was a recommendation of the quinquennial review of the research councils, published in December.

Dr Taylor, who will chair RCUK, said it would be much more proactive and that there would be "less chat" than at the current monthly meeting of council heads. It will develop joint strategies for spending review bids and work to converge internal processes, presenting a streamlined interface.

Despite promoting more multi-council projects, Dr Taylor said the councils'

budgets would remain separate, and responsive mode funding would not be compromised. The chief executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Board would be invited to RCUK and could participate fully if it receives research council status.

RCUK will also advise government on policy and engage in public dialogue about scientific issues.

• The Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils is to be funded directly from the Office of Science and Technology and is to spin off its commercial activities into a wholly owned incorporated company.

At present, the CLRC receives money as payment for services from the research councils and only £2 million of its £40 million budget from the OST. The changes should simplify the process of applying to use the facilities. The CLRC is also to take over managing the subscriptions to the Institute Laue Langevin neutron source and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.

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