Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Wellcome to Fund More Long-Term Projects to Offset 'Pressure to Publish'

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Wellcome to Fund More Long-Term Projects to Offset 'Pressure to Publish'

Article excerpt

The Wellcome Trust is to fund more long-term research projects because of fears that the pressure to publish and the need to show research impact will prevent academics from successfully tackling the world's most pressing challenges.

Over the next five years, the charitable foundation hopes to spend up to £5 billion, almost as much as it has spent over the previous decade, it announced in a new strategy this week.

Jeremy Farrar, the trust's director, said that it planned to spend more on tackling the "really big challenges" - such as drug-resistant bacteria - in decade-long projects, as the organisation had done when it funded the sequencing of the human genome.

He argued that the "model of chasing the next paper in the next journal" could restrict the ability of scientists to solve large-scale problems.

"Some challenges...need to be solved in 10-year cycles," he explained.

The increased emphasis on long-term research was partly due to the increasing complexity of the world's problems, Professor Farrar said, but was also a response to the growing short-term "pressure to publish" in journals.

Although not new, this pressure was on the rise, Professor Farrar said.

"The pressure to show impact in a short period of time...really worries me. I'm not sure there is sufficient space for people to dream," he added.

He nevertheless stressed that traditional grants to fund researchers who have a "great idea" would remain "fundamental" to the trust's work.

A £5 billion budget for the next five years would mark a significant increase in funding from the trust, which spent £6 billion over the past decade. …

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