Monday, August 29, 2011

Research council accused of failing to satisfactorily consult

The story concerns the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and its recent decisions on funding. Imperial College chemist Anthony Barrett is reported in Research Fortnightly stating here that:

"[. . .] But talking to Research Fortnight Today, Barrett said Delpy’s response did not give the evidence of consultation or methods of prioritisation which the group had called for.

Barrett asked Delpy to provide the evidence in a letter on 23 August, after both the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics said they had not been consulted.

“He has not yet answered these key points and we will press him to answer,” Barrett told Research Fortnight Today. “As a former scientist, he should know to share data with colleagues, when he makes statements.”

Although the letter, published on the EPSRC website on 25 August, listed the types of sources called on it did not provide the supporting documents requested by Barrett and colleagues.

Barrett said his group would respond with “a total rejection of his statement” in the next few days, adding that there was “utterly no evidence whatsoever” that the EPSRC consulted anyone outside its own ranks.

Delpy’s letter defended the council’s ability to make such decisions.

“While I stand by the way EPSRC has used external evidence and advice to inform our decision making, I would also like to stress the expertise and knowledge of our staff in managing research funding and portfolios,” he said. [. . .]"

It would be interesting to learn more about whether research councils are genuinely better informed in getting "external evidence and advice" (but not from bodies, such as the Royal Society of Chemistry). Why not take advice from leading learned societies on major funding decisions? I can understand looking to other viewpoints, but no engagement? I will follow the story closely....

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