28 March 2012
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's final shaping capability announcement today is as good a sign as we could have hoped for in tough times for the continued importance of science to the economy, said the President of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Professor David Phillips said the £976m planned resource commitments from EPSRC, coming a week after last week's budget boost of £100m for infrastructure, must continue to ensure support for top quality UK science.
"This goes some way to making up for last year's announcement that the government's science capital funding would plummet from £158m to £53m," he added.
Professor Phillips said that the focus on support for early career research and a commitment to high-quality research were signs of a welcome new approach emerging under the chairmanship of Paul Golby, approved in his role by MPs this month.
He added: "Unfortunately, due to tough economic times ahead, the planned annual expenditure in 2014/2015 by the EPSRC represents a decrease of three per cent in resource and of 50 per cent in capital compared with EPSRC expenditure in 2010/2011. So we must engage and ensure that every pound is used wisely.
"Almost £1bn in support for engineering and the physical sciences in tough times now though is an achievement and the RSC looks forward to working with the EPSRC supporting the excellence of UK science wherever we can. Having had some disagreements with the shaping capability process in recent months, EPSRC's commitment to engage with the community in a much clearer manner appears to signal that we are moving in the right direction.
"Regarding the assessment of grants using a pool of experts, we await to see how exactly experts in this pool will then be selected for the College of Peer Review and whether or not transparency in this area improves.
"The RSC has pushed for, and succeeded in obtaining, a more inclusive approach with the community in making funding decisions for the future," Professor Phillips said. "As EPSRC chief executive David Delpy himself has said, by working together the RSC and EPSRC will certainly be better able to develop strategies that will enhance the effectiveness of our research base and thereby make the case for additional government funding."
"We welcome the approach Paul Golby is taking in his new role and look forward for greater engagement between the EPSRC and the chemical sciences community and hope our voice continues to be heard."