Following the ESRC's response to the Government's budget allocation for 2011-15, its Chief Executive, Prof Paul Boyle, has stated explictly that it will be introducing some form of 'demand management'. This means that he intends to limit the number of applications individuals or institutions can submit.
According to Boyle, recent increases in the volume of applications have resulted in 'considerable redundant effort across the social science community in the preparation and peer review of applications. It is also creating administrative inefficiencies both at HEIs and the ESRC itself in the processing of such applications at a time when we are all being asked to reduce our administrative costs.'
Thus, reasons Boyle, 'the ESRC is particularly keen to reduce the number of applications which fail to reach minimum quality thresholds and concentrate everyone's effort on preparing and assessing those applications which are fundable.'
However, he wants to involve the academy in the decision making process. In a discussion paper (available via the link here), he lays out five options:
• Researcher Sanctions: This involves limiting the number of proposals from individual researchers who consistently fail to submit applications that reach an agreed quality threshold;
• Institutional Sanctions: This involves introducing sanctions for HEIs whose applications fail to meet a certain success rate and/or quality threshold;
• Institutional Quotas for ‘managed mode’ schemes. This involves the introduction of institutional quotas for certain schemes (e.g. early career researcher schemes, Large Grants/Centres, Professorial Fellowships).;
• Institutional quotas for all schemes: This involves responsive as well as managed mode schemes;
• Charging for applications. Levying an agreed fee for institutions submitting applications, with the option that this levy is redeemable if the application is successful.
As well as these, Boyle suggests that the ESRC could introduce other measures, such as tougher sifting, resbumissions by invitation only, and spreading good practice.
The consultation will ask the following broad questions:
• which, if any of options, should not be considered for further development and why?
• overall, which of the options offers the best opportunities to effectively manage demand whilst ensuring the flow of high quality research applications
• how might these options be further developed and refined?
• what other possible options should be considered that are not covered here?
• which of the other additional options might be taken forward as complementary to a main demand management strategy?
• how might any of these complementary options be further refined?
The deadline for responses is 18 Jan. Do get in touch with them with your thoughts. Responses should be sent to Jeremy Neathey.