Dual Funding Structure for Research in the UK: Research Council and Funding Council Allocation Methods, and Impact Pathways (BIS report)

A report analysing the dual support system for research funding in the UK and how it has changed since the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) has told the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills that it is associated with a high level of concentration at the richest universities.

This report ‘Dual Funding Structure for Research in the UK’, analyses the links between research performance, research funding models and the knowledge exchange activities and research motivation of academics in the UK. It looks at the UK system of dual funding support in which university research funding is provided by both institutional block grants from the Funding Councils based on quality assessment exercises and by funding through peer reviewed competition from the Research Councils.

Prepared by the Centre for Business Research and the UK Innovation Research Centre, the report found that, when ranked by income, the top 10% of universities received 53% of mainstream Quality Related research funding and 64% of research council funding in 2010.

Over the same period, the second-richest 10% received only 20% of mainstream QR funding and 20% of research council funding.

The report, commissioned by BIS, found that overall, the dual support system of funding for university research brought about a real-terms rise in both mainstream QR and research council funding between 2002 and 2010.

Between 2002 and 2010, research council funding grew faster than QR funding, the report notes. However, it adds that this is in part due to the introduction of full economic costing in 2004.

Since 2002, funding has grown faster from charities, central government and overseas than it has from industry.

The report also analyses responses to a survey of 22,000 academics, conducted in 2010.

The survey found that 34% of academics at departments rated highly in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise describe themselves as conducting basic research. This compares with 27% of academics at medium-rated departments and 21% at low-rated departments.

In contrast, a higher proportion, 52% of academics at low-rated departments said they were motivated by research applications alone, compared with 35% at higher-rated departments.

Scientists at higher-rated departments were more likely to be involved in patenting, licensing and spin-outs than their counterparts at lower-ranked departments. 16% of scientists at higher-ranked departments said they were involved in patenting, compared with 10% at low-ranked departments.

The report found that activities like these, though, form only a small component of impact activities, with a much higher proportion of academics getting involved in people-based, problem-solving and community-based interactions.

According to the survey, the highest constraints to academics interacting with external organisations are lack of time, cited by 66% of respondents, and university bureaucracy, cited by 31%.

Science lobby set for verdict on Horizon 2020

Lobby groups renew efforts in the face of funding fears

07 Feb 13

Scientists and university groups have launched a late push against cuts to the Commission’s plans for Horizon 2020, ahead of a meeting of EU leaders that could seal the next seven-year budget for research.

The scientists’ group Euroscience, the European Research Council and the League of European Research Universities have made fresh pleas urging decision makers to secure a budget of at least €80 billion for Horizon 2020. In letters to the EU Council, the groups say the money will be vital to ensure the success of the programme, promote economic growth and prevent the departure of talented researchers from Europe.

Their call comes as heads of state prepare to meet in Brussels today to try to reach a compromise on the overall EU budget for 2014-20. In November, inconclusive talks discussed a scenario indicating a Horizon 2020 settlement of around €70bn, despite a pre-emptive campaign by science groups supported by Nobel laureates and a petition of 153,000 signatures.

Peter Tindemans, secretary-general of Euroscience, admits the research lobby may not do any better this time. “I’m not really optimistic, I must confess, because from what I’m hearing, on the key subdivisions of the budget, the agreement is very close,” he says. A senior Commission official also confirmed leaders were close to a compromise on spending allocations, but that other technical areas, such as member-state rebates, remained a problem.

In its letter, Euroscience tells leaders they should give Horizon 2020 €85bn using funds from the two largest budget areas—agriculture and cohesion. Otherwise, the rhetoric by leaders on the importance of research spending “once more threatens to be a matter of lip service,” the letter says.

Euroscience has attempted to gain traction via the Irish presidency of the Council, by briefing on the implications of a €70bn scenario, and it has lobbied the Dutch prime minister through the Royal Netherlands Society of Arts and Sciences.

The ERC has teamed up with the European Round Table of Industrialists, a group of industry chief executives, to make its case. “I am what I call a realistic optimist, so I want to try whatever seems possible until the very end,” says ERC president Helga Nowotny.

However, Nowotny says a fundamental change in the EU system is needed to better support research and innovation. “We are in a structure that has a historical antecedence, with a common agricultural policy but no common R&D policy,” says Nowotny. “Most policymakers believe that research is key for Europe’s future, but if you don’t have the structure in place then we end up where we are now.”

Other Brussels sources have told Research Europe that national leaders will struggle to justify increased spending on research to their governments, in part because the competitive nature of the funding allocation means they cannot quantify how much they will get back.

A senior Commission official points out that “there is no unconditional support for Horizon 2020” among member states. “France is unconditionally for agricultural subsidies. The Group of 12 are unconditionally for structural funds. The UK is for Horizon 2020, but … there always has to be a ‘but’.”

Kurt Deketelaere, secretary-general of Leru, says the outlook for Horizon 2020 could be even more bleak. At a meeting with Scottish university officials on 29 January, he said he fears extra commitments to large projects could subtract as much as €15bn from it—leaving just €55bn for the work streams.

According to Deketelaere, money for projects such Galileo, Copernicus and the Iter nuclear fusion reactor will now “probably” be taken from Horizon 2020—leaving the research programme in “a complete mess”. However, others believe that there will be a ring-fenced allocation of €12.8bn for the three projects, as included in the latest document being discussed by the Council.

If leaders do not agree this week, the Commission says it will prepare a budget for 2014 based on this year’s spending plus two per cent inflation.

by Laura Greenhalgh

Social sciences to get dedicated challenge in next EU Framework



 An additional societal challenge to fund social sciences and humanities research is to be added to Horizon 2020, the EU’s next funding research programme set to run from 2014-2020, officials from member states and the European Commission have said.

The Commission has made preparations to split the existing sixth challenge in Horizon 2020’s societal challenges pillar—inclusive, innovative and secure societies—into two, creating one challenge for humanities and social challenges and one for security research. The new sixth challenge will be called Europe in a Changing World, and will include research on “inclusive, innovative and reflective societies”, says a Commission official.

The seventh societal challenge will be called Secure Societies, and will cover the “freedom and security of Europe and its citizens”, according to the Commission’s proposal. This will include security and defence research, as well as some research related to politics and diplomacy.

Within the sixth challenge, three fields will cover research into media, history, culture, philosophy, European identity and linguistics, the Commission official says. “The Council of Ministers and the European Parliament both wanted this, so we have plans to turn the six challenges into seven,” he says.

There won’t be any extra money for social sciences or the humanities as a result, but the change is likely to be welcomed by researchers in these fields, some of whom feared that being grouped together with security research would skew research priorities towards counter-terrorism and other security-related problems.

Funding for social sciences across the other challenges will remain as previously proposed, says the Commission official, but the Commission is still undecided about how this will be done.

The European Alliance for the Social Sciences and Humanities called the proposal a “pragmatic proposition”, while saying that the creation of a special funding pot for such research would help scientists in the field to collaborate more and improve the circulation of ideas and people. Rüdiger Klein, a co-founder of the alliance, says the separation from security will increase the scope of contributions of social sciences and humanities research to Europe’s society and economy.

However, Klein thinks that the research dimensions within the Innovative Societies part of the sixth challenge need to be further clarified. This part includes funding for initiatives such as ICT support, international cooperation, Science in Society and links between structural funds and Framework Programme funding.

“The current lumping together, under this heading, of all sorts of components familiar from Framework 7 carries severe risks for diluting the research agenda of this challenge,” he says.

 Click on link to see the structure of the 3 Pillars of Horizon 2020

by Inga Vesper, researchprofessional.com, 16 Jan 2013



Government invests £120 million to boost health research

January 9, 2013

Health Secretary invites researchers to help tackle the country’s biggest health challenges

Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, announced today that £120 million will be invested in health research to benefit millions of patients and tackle some of the country’s biggest health problems over the next five years.

The £120 million National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) scheme is part of the Government’s commitment to put the UK at the forefront of health research. Jeremy Hunt is calling for researchers to make a real impact on patients’ lives, whether this is through revolutionary new treatments to tackle the biggest killer diseases or better joined up care for patients with long-term conditions to make their lives easier.

The new funding builds on previous successful NIHR health research that has led to improvements in treatments for patients and now widely used in the NHS. This includes a new blood clotting drug that reduces the risk of death in patients by 30 per cent. In another example, research is leading to better follow up care for stroke survivors through a simple questionnaire to make sure their needs are being met and that support is available in the community. This new system is now being provided across 15 services across England, covering 1000 patients. 

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said

“Britain is one of the best research centres in the world and it is important that we harness the skills and creativity in this sector to really improve the lives of those who use the NHS.

“If we can have better tests, better technology and make better use of the skills of NHS staff, we will be in a better position to tackle the changing needs of our population and ensure patients get the care they deserve.”

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor at the Department of Health, said:

“This National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) supports world-class research in the NHS, and ensures patients benefit from the latest advances in healthcare treatments.

“This new funding will support the best health researchers around the country. The collaborations will conduct the very highest quality research across universities, the NHS and in other relevant organisations. They are therefore ideally placed to play a key role in ensuring that advances in treatments for a wide variety of diseases reach our patients, so that thousands of people will benefit right across the country.” 

The new £120m investment will support up to 12 National Institute for Health Research Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (NIHR CLAHRCs) around the country, tasked with ensuring the best evidence gained from research is applied directly to the NHS to make the lives of millions of patients better.

The investment, part of the Government’s plans to secure the NHS as a world leader in health research, as well as helping to ensure patients get the best treatment possible.

For more information go to: http://www.nihr.ac.uk/infrastructure/Pages/CLAHRCs.aspx

Contact externalprojects@staffs.ac.uk