Science body calls for research cash

December 12, 1997

RESEARCH councils must have extra funds to pay the full indirect costs of university research, says the Council for Science and Technology in its advice to ministers.

In a move towards openness, the previously "rather secretive" body, about whose membership and effectiveness research council chiefs last week admitted knowing little, has published its advice on the future of university research.

The advice, reflecting the views of independent members of the council and not necessarily its chairwoman Margaret Beckett, agrees with much of Sir Ron Dearing's analysis.

It calls for continued research selectivity, more collaboration, the full funding of research in an open manner and an injection of funds to cope with badly run-down infrastructure. The money to cover indirect costs of research should not come from a transfer from either the research or funding councils.

The council supports Dearing's proposal that research assessment exercise funding should be limited to departments of at least 3a standing. But the council is concerned at the proposal for a minimum Pounds 500 per capita allowance for scholarship for those not entering the RAE. It says this could create an open-ended commitment to scholarship funding, and calls instead for scholarships to be allocated on a selective basis.

The council says that a general loan fund for infrastructure as proposed by Dearing would not work, and that the government will need to fund the most urgent needs.

It adds that it is "sceptical" about the proposal for a new independent body to advise on the direction of national policy on research in higher education. Instead it would be preferable for the council and the Science and Engineering Base Coordinating Committee to develop a more effective oversight.

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