Comment »Posted on Wednesday 25 March 2009 at 10:06 pm by Jacob Aron
In Chemistry, Musings

Scientists who submit too many unsuccesful reasearch proposals could be blacklisted by Britain’s largest research council. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s new rules state that researchers who have submitted three or more bids for funding that are ranked “low” by the review panel will not be allowed any further applications for one year. The same will apply to those with a 25% or less success rate at applying for grants.

The EPSRC say the move will help manage demand for research grants when resources are limited, but scientists aren’t happy – particularly chemists. A statement from the Royal Society of Chemistry laid out their fears:

“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 RSC said that chemists in the UK could find it difficult to continue with research, and that young up-and-coming scientists may find it difficult to establish their research careers.

University departments could have to close as a result of the EPSRC’s decision, says organic chemist Karl Hale. If universities find that a significant number of their scientists have been blacklisted, they will effectively have to shut down due to lack of funding.

David Reid, head of communications at the EPSRC, responded to the critics:

“We’re facing a 3% to 5% shortfall in funding available for blue-skies research.

“A small number of people put a disproportionate burden on the peer-review system. We’re talking about weeding out consistently low-quality proposals.

“Chemists have a culture of putting in lots of short, small proposals to us. We would like to see chemists be more ambitious in their proposals and work hard on one or two bigger proposals in a year.”

In other words, grant money is tight in our credit-crunched age, and the EPSRC staff have had enough of being tied up processing all the applications they get. I don’t think this is the solution to their problem though, as it will only serve to hurt science.

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