Friday, 13 February 2009

Are research councils to blame for the fall in the number of UK Nobel Laureates?

Twenty eminent UK scientists have written to THES, calling for academics to 'rebel against new rules that state that the potential financial or social effects of research must be highlighted in a two-page "impact summary" in grant applications'. The letter's authors urge peer reviewer to ignore these summaries, arguing that the economic potential of "blue-skies" research is impossible to predict in advance.

The letter was coordinated by Professor Donald Braben (UCL) and Professor Philip Moriarty (University of Nottingham). Professor Braben is quoted as saying, "As soon as you identify a beneficiary for researh... the councils are going to turn it around and say, right, deliver. And then it is applied research... You can't have blue-skies research if you put caveats on it."

Speaking on behalf of the Research Councils, Philip Esler (chief executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council) is quoted as saying in response, "The description of impact that the research councils work with is broad, encompassing not only the contribution research makes to the economy but also to society as a whole. It covers not only economic benefits, but also those related to public policy, quality of life, health and creative output. Research councils will not be disadvantaging blue-skies research, nor stifling creativity."

Read the THES article in full.

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