- It's cutting its Small Grants.
- Consortium Grants are being cut from two rounds per year to one, and an outline stage will be introduced.
NERC does say that 'it will remain possible to submit proposals for small discrete projects, proof-of-concept studies and pump-priming exercises to the Standard Grants scheme, if they exceed the minimum scheme funding level'. That's defined by NERC as '£25,000 for directly incurred costs', which has always struck me as a slightly curious way of defining a lower limit. Why not a minimum that includes directly allocated and, perhaps estates and indirect as well? Whilst £25k may sound like quite a small amount, and way below the £65k maximum for the current Small Grants, when you add in directly allocated, estates and indirect costs you would be coming very close to this figure.
So, in effect, they will not be providing any small scale funding. I tried talking to them about it this morning, but unfortunately the relevant person was away from her desk, but I imagine the reason for cutting the grants is (a) they're getting too many applications and the success rates are plummeting, (b) what they have been funding has tended to be incremental and not paradigm shifting, and (c) universities should be funding it anyway.
Well, up to a point, Lord Cooper. I would suggest, in response, that (a) if you're getting too many applications, it's a sign of popularity, of a scheme that the sector actually wants. How about putting more money towards it and away from the flashy large scale schemes? (b) okay, it's small scale by nature, but then, sometimes research does progress in small increments, and current breakthroughs build on previous knowledge, and (c) universities have the cash?? Ha!
However, something tells me that NERC aren't going to backtrack on the decision, especially when all their sister funders are doing the same. So we need to work in the changed climate. If you want to apply for funding for a small project get in touch with me and I'll help you identify other possible sources of funding, or how to frame your project in such a way that it could fit within NERC's Standard Grants scheme.