An interesting viewpoint from Sue Richards of the Institute for Government on the ESRC's plans for the next four years. She makes three points: that the ESRC missed a trick by not making their case in the context of Cameron's 'big society'; that it seems to be wanting to push for more concentration; and that the need for further investment in the ESRC's longitudinal studies is not necessarily justified.
All valid points. We're currently having discussions internally about the ESRC's proposals for demand management, and I agree with Richards on this. It does look like an effect of the plans will be to limit funding to the favoured few. Kent does reasonably well out of the ESRC, and might benefit from such a system. However, I think there's a danger here of doing a disservice to social sciences more broadly. Unlike many of the hard sciences, it does not rely on large infrastructure, and a lot of good work is done in small 'pockets of excellence' in institutions that are not research intensive. These could be adversely affected by the ESRC's move to concentration.
I also agree with Richards on the Big Society slip. Whether the ESRC agrees politically with Cameron's drive or not, it should have used it as a tool to bolster its position and lever a better settlement. It looks like an opportunity missed.