Thursday, 19 February 2015

NERC Demand Management: a Clarification

Polaris House

Dear Vice Chancellor

I am writing to you in connection with our recent announcement about measures we are introducing to manage the demand for NERC funding.

As you will have seen, we are planning to cut the maximum funding level for standard grants (from £1.2m to £800k, fEC), but we will also be restricting the number of applications from those institutions which have a success rate of less than 20%.

We have had a number of queries about the methodology we will be using to decide whether institutions fall within this bracket. When we explain the system, we are often met with looks of puzzlement and confusion, and are asked to explain it again. And again. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that it is an unnecessarily complicated and burdensome system.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and I'm writing to you today to demonstrate how very simple the new calculation is. It is a straightforward 11 step process, as follows:
  1. Take the number of grants awarded over six rounds, calculate the number of proposals that would have to have been submitted to give research organisations a success rate of 20% (number of awarded grants x five). This is the 'six round 20% application number'.
  2. If the month has an 'r' in, subtract 3 from the total and divide by 7.
  3. If the date of calculation is before the first paschal full moon, multiply by 100. 
  4. If the chance of precipitation is thought to be high, go directly to jail. Do not pass go, and do not collect £200. You are barred from ever applying to NERC again. Ever.  
  5. Once the 'six round 20% application number' has been calculated, write it on a small piece of paper and fold it seven times. 
  6. Put it in an envelope and store it in a tin box marked 'string'. 
  7. Ask people to guess (maximum three times) what the number is. 
  8. If they get it right, then they can 'get out of jail free', and will be able to submit ONE application to the subsequent grant round. 
  9. Otherwise the number of allowable submissions will be limited to the 'six round 20% application number' contained within the tin. 
  10. This number, which will only be available to be viewed by the NERC High Wizard, will be applied as a cap on a per round basis; ie divide the six round 20% application number by six. 
  11. The 'six round 20% number' will be recalculated annually on the vernal equinox. After the sacrifice of a goat.
As I say, it's all very simple.

I hope that clarifies the matter. If you have any questions don't hesitate to strap them to a carrier pigeon and I will endeavour to catch it with a large stick. 


Marmaduke P Hoskins

Lord Chief Commissioner of Demand Management
The Natural Environment Research Council. 

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