Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Scientists Call for Repeal of 'Deluded' EPSRC Measures

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Scientists Call for Repeal of 'Deluded' EPSRC Measures

Article excerpt

Willetts receives demand for 'complete rethink' of council's structure and policies. Paul Jump reports.

More than 100 senior chemists, physicists and mathematicians have written to David Willetts, the universities and science minister, to demand the repeal of a raft of recent policy initiatives by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The signatories to the letter - led by Anthony Barrett, Glaxo professor of organic chemistry at Imperial College London, and including Nobel prizewinner Sir Harry Kroto - say they have been "galvanised" by the EPSRC's introduction of its shaping capability policy last year.

This will see the EPSRC growing or shrinking research fields according to their national importance and existing capacity, as well as current UK excellence. The letter says a cut to synthetic organic chemistry, announced as part of a first tranche of decisions in July, "seems to have been based on the flawed evaluation and/or prejudice of a few (EPSRC) staff".

The signatories call for a "complete rethink of the EPSRC's structure and decision-making processes" and the repeal of several "deluded" measures introduced in recent years "in defiance of the scientific community's advice and requests".

These include the abolition of project studentships, the limiting of fellowship applications to specific fields, and the ban on the resubmission of grant applications even if they have been deemed fundable.

The letter criticises a new requirement for grant applicants to set out the "national importance", referred to as "impact", of their research over a 10- to 50-year time frame. …

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