Royal Society of Chemistry concerns about EPSRC research funding

20 March 2009

The Royal Society of Chemistry is concerned about the way that the UK's primary science funding body for chemistry is introducing new measures which have resulted in anger in parts of the chemistry community.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's failure to give adequate advance notification of new demand management procedures is causing confusion and concern on some campuses where important new research is being performed. 

The RSC appreciates that EPSRC felt the need to take measures to address the problem of the low responsive mode success rates. However, the RSC is disappointed that it was not consulted about the new measures and had no advance notification of the details of the changes. 

As a result of confusion allegations have emerged, made by some chemical scientists, of "blacklisting" and this has led the RSC to seek clarification of the new procedures that have been introduced by Swindon-based EPSRC. 

UK chemists - at all stages of their professional development - could find it very difficult to maintain momentum in their research programmes due to administrative constraints at the EPSRC.  

In addition the RSC is worried that the policies may result in young, less experienced researchers not getting the support needed to launch their research careers.  

These key problems need to be addressed to ensure that the research base in the UK thrives and replenishes itself for the long-term benefit of the economy. 

The RSC is trying to gain a more accurate picture of how severe the problem is as a result of some researchers putting in many unsuccessful submissions.  

What is very clear is that there has been a very low rate of success (15%) by those entering to the EPSRC "responsive mode" submissions to fund research projects.  

At the same time the RSC is pressing the EPSRC to communicate more candidly and more widely its new policy and intentions. 

Without greater transparency by the research council it risks losing the trust of a significant portion of the research community.

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