Column: Undercover academic
Better than nowt
Late last year, the success rate for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) first grant scheme was dropping alarmingly. From a near guaranteed source of funding for new academics, it became an exercise in trial and error, with better success rates than the standard scheme, but nowhere near the levels seen previously. Should we be happy that, as of January 2009, the EPSRC has altered the first grant scheme?
The first grant scheme began as a financially capped scheme to get new academics used to formally applying for funding, writing research proposals and taking those first, vital steps into their research ideas. It was a big hit with those following non-traditional routes into academia. Then the age limit and cap was removed, and success rates dropped. Not only is the financial cap back, but the funding is for a maximum of two years duration.
Do we apply for funding for a PhD student and hope that they cram it all into two years? Or compromise and request postdoc funding for two years? Or look to our cash strapped universities for increased support? Or do we suck it up, and get that first standard EPSRC application out into the harsh reality of the competitive research world as soon as possible?
The Undercover academic is a university lecturer in the UK