UK chemistry research gets a strong endorsement from international review panel


12 June 2009

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) today welcomed the conclusions of a major review of British university chemistry research conducted by an international panel of leading scientists.

The report, written after a five-day tour of campuses in April, states that UK chemistry is "world class and world-leading in many fields and is well-placed to continue to make a significant contribution to the UK economy and address societal challenges facing humanity."

The report, by an 18-person team, led by Professor Michael Klein of the University of Pennsylvania stated:

. There are examples of truly outstanding research.

. UK chemistry derives enormous strength from recent large investments in infrastructure, shared equipment and national user facilities.

. Multi-disciplinary research involving chemistry is expanding in both reach and impact.

. Academic collaboration with industry is a 'positive and distinguishing feature of UK chemistry' with vigorous and successful spin-outs.

However, the panel stated that the mentoring of, and support for, researchers in the early stages of their career should be improved. Also, more adventurous research should be facilitated and communications between Research Councils and researchers improved.

Professor Dave Garner, President of the RSC, said today: "We welcome the international review panel's conclusions. Where there is praise this will be celebrated. Where there are challenges we will make every effort to ensure that these are addressed."

"The contributions of science to society should be appreciated by the government and sufficient funds provided to enable science education - notably by increasing the number of teachers with a science degree - and research to flourish. 

"The UK must take note of what has happened in the USA since President Obama's inauguration. There has been a major investment in the USA in scientific research to address the challenges of the 21st century and to ensure an internationally competitive economy. 

"We need to drive out of the present economic recession by looking through the windscreen, not the rear view mirror. Thus, rather than provide subsidies to preserve 20th century technology the UK must invest in research that will lead to sustainable economic developments.

"It is vital that we maintain a 'critical mass' of original and unfettered research since this provides new and often unexpected developments. 

"Frequently, the applications of blue-skies research are not always immediately apparent but appear later and lead to significant economic developments and advances in the quality of life."

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