Let research councils take charge of funding

A twin-track approach to university research funding has been justified to prevent good work being missed. The research councils’ job is to make sure brilliant individual researchers get grants, while others in low overhead areas such as maths may be covered by money from the Higher Education Funding Councils. The system means universities get research […]

A twin-track approach to university research funding has been justified to prevent good work being missed.

The research councils’ job is to make sure brilliant individual researchers get grants, while others in low overhead areas such as maths may be covered by money from the Higher Education Funding Councils.

The system means universities get research funding from two sources: the research councils for specific projects, and from the funding councils which pay for research infrastructure, equipment and some staff costs.

The House of Commons science and technology committee was due to take evidence from four research councils this week on the rationale behind the system.

There is clearly a question over the sense of two separate bodies funding research, particularly now the funding councils have launched their own four-yearly assessment exercise to help determine how much to give each department.

This exercise smacks of a duplication of effort. The research councils are in the best position to judge excellence and manage research funds. Leave the funding councils to concentrate on teaching but give responsibility for both tracks of research funds to the research councils.