Recently appointed EPSRC Chairman, Dr Paul Golby, has announced two independent reviews into strategic advice used by EPSRC and the peer review process. This follows time spent last summer consulting with the research community on some of their key concerns.
On National Importance, Golby has said that “clearer guidance has been introduced to remove the wording ‘over a 10-50 year timeframe’. The guidance also explains that EPSRC does not expect applicants to predict the future”. However, checking the EPSRC webpages on National Importance shows that the 10-50 year timeframe is still explicitly included, though it’s not mentioned in their Funding Guide:
What is the significance of the 10 – 50 year timescale?
- EPSRC supports fundamental, long-term research which delivers outcomes typically over a 10 – 50 year timescale.
- Our reference to this timescale is to ensure that the introduction of National Importance does not drive a move towards shorter-term application-focussed research.
- As an applicant, you are asked to identify potential benefits – what could reasonably be expected should the proposed project deliver all its objectives?
- You are also asked to consider how these potential benefits align to currently identified national priorities.
It’s not clear to me whether or not applicants should explicitly reference the 10-50 year timescale, although I have sought clarification from EPSRC on this point.
On accusations of micromanagement following the recent portfolio review, Shaping Capability, Golby has sought to reassure the community that the budget will still be managed primarily through 10 higher level themes, rather than 113 individual research areas. In the Times Higher piece, however, he cautions: “With less funding available it is important that we give clear signals about priority areas based on the best evidence and advice.”
The first review, on how EPSRC obtains and utilises this strategic advice, will be carried out in Spring 2013 reporting to the July 2013 Council meeting. The second review, on the peer review process, will follow later this year.
**UPDATE 06/03/2013** EPSRC has today published the membership of the panel for the first independent review of strategic advice: http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/news/2013/Pages/independentreviews.aspx