Key Points: Head of EPSRC Speaks to THE

The head of EPSRC, Paul Golby, has spoken to THE about the concerns voiced by academics on the research council’s strategies.

Key points he raises are as follows:

  • “With a real-term budget cut of 12-14 per cent, the EPSRC has had to make difficult choices to ensure that the UK’s research base remains internationally competitive; but there are things we could have done better.”
  • “While peer review determines which research to fund, the EPSRC is responsible for creating the right environment for this to happen, and our communications about this have not been crystal clear.Academic excellence is our number one priority and always will be. Let’s shout that from the rooftops so no one can doubt our commitment to it. From now on, we need to send a clear signal that this takes priority over all other considerations.”
  • “Asking researchers to identify the national importance of their research “over a 10-50 year time-frame” has caused most angst. We recognise that impact doesn’t happen overnight and can be difficult to predict. This phrase was misleading so we will no longer use it and give clearer guidance to our peer reviewers.”
  • “We have also heard concerns about PhD studentships, particularly the problems that young academics have in securing funding for students. We are addressing this through the doctoral training grants awarded to universities, and will be encouraging them to use those grants strategically including in support of their early-career appointments.”
  • “We plan to do much more to involve and engage the community in future. I would like to create more opportunities for people to meet and discuss issues with members of EPSRC Council, as well as our advisers and staff, so that we increase the transparency of what we do and give everyone greater access to those responsible for making decisions.”
  • “We are commissioning two independent reviews: one to look at how the EPSRC obtains strategic advice to help it develop effective policies, and one to evaluate our overall peer-review processes. The first will report back to EPSRC’s governing council in six months and the second a few months later and they will both be made public.”

The full article is available here.

Hopefully EPSRC’s transparency and clarity will improve following this statement and the forthcoming reviews, so we as a research community will be able to pro-actively and positively engage with them to shape future strategies.


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