A world of research

June 8, 2017

It is reported that if the UK loses access to European Research Council grants, it will need to set up an alternative (“Post-Brexit UK ‘may need to launch global funding council’”, News, 1 June). Whether or not we remain part of the ERC, a new council is desperately needed. In an era of global research networks, the assumption that the best project partners are those geographically closest is no longer valid.

My subject, theology, is excluded from the state universities of Italy, Spain and most of France because of their secular education systems. Moreover, the whole of the humanities are consigned to just two of the ERC’s 25 assessment panels.

The current Times Higher Education World University Rankings shows 41 of the top 100 institutions to be in the US, compared with only 27 across the whole of mainland Europe. Many of these US institutions have strong theology and religion departments, which are well endowed and offer extensive opportunities for high-quality research collaboration. At present, however, very little funding is available for this.

Brexit offers researchers and sector leaders the opportunity to reimagine the landscape of global research partnerships and funding. As part of this, the dynamics of individual disciplines require careful consideration.

David Grumett
Lecturer in Christian ethics and practical theology
University of Edinburgh

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