Wednesday 12 January 2011

'The Current System Discourages People from Undertaking Inexpensive Research'

A refreshing counterblast from Prof Dorothy Bishop, Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology and a Wellcome Principal Research Fellow at the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford.

She appreciates the need for the ESRC to stem the flow of applications, but thinks that they are looking for solutions in the wrong place. The ESRC needs 'to change the basic structure of university funding so that institutions and individuals are no longer assessed on amount of research funding, but rather on an output/input function, i.e. how much bang do you get for your buck,' she argues.

'Currently, a person who secures a £500K grant which leads to two publications in lower-ranking journals will be given more credit than one who generates five high-ranking publications over the same period with a £50K grant. Clearly, some sorts of research are much more expensive than others; the problem is that the current system discourages people from undertaking inexpensive research.'

And this is only going to get worse, with the ESRC's emphasis on longer and larger grants, and its (and the BA's) cutting of Small Grants. Academics who, in the past would have got value for money from relatively small amounts of money, are now going to try and artificially inflate their projects so that they flop over the £200k threshold.

Instead of backing any of the ESRC's proposals, Bishop is instead suggesting a different approach: allocate, review and reward those who demonstrate thrifty and cost effective use of funds.


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