Interesting comment piece by Prof Tim Brikhead in this week's THE. He suggest that we need a dramatic overhaul of the way teaching and research are balanced in universities, including a wholesale change in the distribution of grants.
'The grant-acquisition treadmill is relentless. It is also monumentally time-consuming and demoralising because the failure rate is high and the likelihood of success almost random. Without exception, every one of my colleagues has come back from recent research council grant meetings wringing their hands in frustration and despair at the scale of the bureaucratic burden on academics and the utter injustice of the system. A system that requires academics to spend such a huge proportion of their time writing grant applications, awards those grants haphazardly, and then ranks academics according to how successful they have been in this exercise, is deeply flawed.'
Instead he suggests using the Canadian method - note the Institute for Government's interest in this earlier - whereby academics need only spend a relatively short time applying for grants, which are longer term. Prof Birkhead says that some of his colleagues there need only spend a week every five years complete applications. Interesting idea - but would the Government have the stomach to take it on?