Safeguarding science's foundations

May 3, 1996

The report of the National Academies Policy Advisory Group on the research capability of the university system (THES, April 19), argues for greater selectivity of research funding. It also recommends more rewarding career pathways for contract researchers as an important means of strengthening the United Kingdom's research base. This is also a goal of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council's Research Staff Initiative.

It should be recognised that some of the new universities have, in the short time research funding has been available to them, done a great deal to promote the good employment practices, including longer and permanent posts for researchers, recommended by the Concordat between the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals and the research councils and by the House of Lords committee on science and technology. Some of the more established universities have not yet done so much.

Pressure to withdraw all research funding abruptly from universities which have had only a very brief period to achieve national standing for their research could therefore end some excellent investment in research careers which should be recognised and rewarded. This is fundamental to maintaining and improving the UK's research capability.

Juliet Cheetham University of Stirling SHEFCE Contract Research Staff Initiative

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