Research Funding in a Post-Brexit World

Adrian Farrel's picture

Whatever your view of the outcome of the referendum, you probably agree that the campaigns were threaded through with misinformation and confusion. We might hope that we are past that point, but as the debate about how we will negotiate the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) develops we are being exposed to more and distractions and disingenuous public statements.

A considerable amount of research funding comes to the UK from the EU through the Horizon 2020 (H2020) scheme [1]. This programme is providing over 80 billion Euros in grants over the period 2014 to 2020 and is envisioned as a means to drive economic growth and create jobs within the EU's member nations. The stated aim is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.

The chief beneficiaries of H2020 grants are research institutions (universities and independent research organisations) and the R&D arms of large companies [2], however there is a goal that 20% of the monies will go to small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Evidence-based policy? Only if it fits with your preconceptions

George Walkden's picture

From May, a new clause will be slipped in to all government grant agreements, preventing public funding from being used to lobby the government. While the clause is aimed at quangos, it will also affect charities, and - crucially - academic research. As David Nutt puts it in yesterday's Guardian, this move is an attempt to "limit scientific outputs to those that support its policies". 

This is not just a slap in the face to evidence-based policy. It could be a deathblow.

Research funding: the Christmas countdown

George Walkden's picture

It’s that time of year again: on Sunday 21st December, the winner of the annual scuffle to be Christmas Number One will be announced. The inclusion of streaming in this year’s charts is likely to shake up the system, as older tracks are likely to get more of a shot: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” may make an improbable return to the top, alongside more recent releases by Band Aid 30 and whoever the X Factor winner ends up being. And then of course there’s Iron Maiden; and the whole thing will be accompanied by profound reflection on the pointlessness of it all, and on how it’s not nearly as important as it was ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago.

But three days earlier, on 18th December, academics like me will be hunkering down in their ivory towers and turning up the wireless to hear a different Top 40: the results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014. REF is the scheme that the main UK higher education funding body, HEFCE, uses to determine where its research funding goes. The idea, of course, is to allocate more money to those institutions that are doing the best research. That raises an old, and difficult, question: how do we measure research quality?

Open Access and Open Data

Open Access

The results of any research funded, in whole or in part, by public money must be published in open access scientific journals or by other means which make them readily accessible to the general population for free.

Protection of Privacy & Civil Rights

Data Protection and Surveillance

Security in Freedom

The expansion of our civil rights, and protection of our freedom is a primary motivation for PIRATES.

The threat posed by unlawful and excessive surveillance measures, imposed on us by governments both foreign and domestic, whether in response to terrorism or other threats is grave. There is an immediate need for action to redress the balance and restore our privacy.

Make publicly funded academic research available to all 

We believe that it is vital that the results of academic research produced in universities that receive public money should be available to all, in accordance with the Budapest Open Access Initiative.

We support the existing government policy that all academic research funded or partially funded by the taxpayer via the UK Research Councils is published under a CC-BY license.

We will ensure that the policy is enforced, and encourage the research councils to set up central subject-specific repositories similar to the UKPubMed database for deposit of manuscripts.

The Case for Open Access.

George Walkden's picture

A large proportion of academic research in the UK is taxpayer-funded. The money comes either via grants from the Research Councils, on which the government spends approximately £3 billion each year, or directly to universities from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), which in 2011-12 distributed £1.6 billion.

The transformative potential of world-class research is pretty clear. In the last few years alone, UK researchers have developed the wonder material graphene and discovered the body of Richard III, among other things. Yet, in a curious and inequitable twist of fate, the results of this research have for the most part never been made available to the taxpayers who funded it.