Thursday, 8 September 2011

EPSRC Success Rate Rises to 36%

Paul 'shriek' Jump is once again questioning the Research Councils in the Times Higher. After his 'off with their heads' piece last week on the ESRC, he turns his ire on the EPSRC this week and questions its steadily rising success rate. From a low of 26% in 2008-09, the Council's success rate has risen to 36% in 2010-11.

Good news, you would think. EPSRC put it down to the success of their blacklisting policy (although they don't call it that: to them it will forever be the 'Policy for Repeatedly Unsuccessful Applicants'). This limits those who have had three or more rejections, or have been in the bottom half of the prioritisation list, in a two year period and have a personal success rate of less than 25%, to only submitting one application in the subsequent year. With me so far?

However, Jump quotes two academics who suggest that the success of the policy is debatable: Ian Walmsley suggested that applications are down across the research councils (although this seems to run counter to Jump's piece on the ESRC), and David Price claimed that the policy was deterring weak and strong applications alike.

Whilst it's clear that Jump is a glass-half-empty kind of a guy, I agree that EPSRC's news should be greeted with caution. The Council has recently been in the headlines about it's - ahem - 'consultation', which suggested cutting funding to a number of disciplines within its remit. This has been met by horror in the sector, and has left David 'Derek Smalls' Delpy crying into his beer and saying that it wasn't really a consultation anyway.

Cutting both the number of disciplines and the number of eligible individuals within the remaining disciplines will, eventually, lead to a success rate of 100% for the Council. Hurray! Their work will be complete. Or certainly will be until this plummets back to 0% as there'll be no-one eligible left to apply.


  1. Next week in the Times Higher: The XRC Research Council announces unchanged success rates. Does this stagnation spell the beginning of the end for the XRC?

  2. Yup, it seems as if you're damned if you do or damned if you don't with the Times Higher. But perhaps this is down (as you suggested here: to old fashioned journalese...