British academy


15 Jul 2010

The impact of public expenditure cuts on the Humanities and Social Sciences could make “little difference in terms of cost saving”, but fatally endanger the UK’s “exceptionally successful research base”, the British Academy warns today.

In a submission to Government, composed in response to a request to”provide advice on the needs and contribution of UK research in the context of the Spending Review”, the Academy stresses that the country’s research base is one of its “few world-class assets”, which it will need to make full use of if it is to continue to compete on a global platform.

The document goes on to urge that the major challenges faced today such as economic recovery, climate change, ageing societies and obesity require analysis and research from a wide range of disciplines, with the caution that significant funding cuts to research could mean the UK will “lose and possibly never regain the momentum that has developed as a result of sustained development”.

To coincide with the response, the Presidents of the British Academy and the Royal Society have written a joint letter to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, setting out their concerns and advising the Government to maintain investment in science and research as a contribution to the UK’s “soft power”.

Sir Adam Roberts, President of the British Academy said:

“Academic work done by UK researchers has an extraordinarily high international reputation and a positive effect on people’s lives. What has been built up over generations could be endangered in years if cuts to this remarkably successful sector are applied rigidly.

“This is a major submission to the Government by the British Academy. It’s not only about the subjects we represent – the Humanities and Social Sciences - it’s also about the bigger picture. We look both at the economic impact of research, and also at the broader contribution that research makes to our civic, social and cultural lives.

“The Government has stated that it favours ‘protecting the most productive public investment expenditure’. Let us hope it will do so. The Academy’s submission shows that public investment is necessary to maintain our effective national research base, and that, so far, it has been money extraordinarily well spent. There’s a strong case here that the Government must take on board.”

The Academy’s submission puts forward seven principles which it urges the Government to adopt regarding the future funding of research:

1. Focus on Excellence.  Only excellent research will ensure the UK maintains its place in the world.  Impact must always derive from a starting point of excellence.

2. Develop a long term framework for research. Such a framework must not only recognise the importance of research for economic recovery and growth; but the value of continued investment in the Higher Education research base in order to support the UK’s world-class universities.

3. Maintain diversity and breadth in funding. Science and technology that are blind to culture and society can never fully fathom, let alone solve, the challenges which face the world.

4. Maintain the current balance between QR and project funding. The current balance has facilitated the success of the UK research base. QR funding is vital for Humanities and Social Science disciplines and should not be reduced.

5. Adjust the distribution of non-QR (Quality Related) research funding. All disciplines must be appropriately supported, and attention needs to be paid to the underfunding of humanities and social science research in relation to its economic, social and cultural returns on this investment.

6. Encourage international networks and collaboration. UK researchers and their institutions must be able to engage with the best research overseas in order to advance their disciplines and to strengthen their capacity to address major national challenges.

7. Invest in the most talented researchers. It is essential that the UK remains an attractive place for the most talented researchers to work, and one which can nurture and retain the best researchers both from the UK and from elsewhere in the world.


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