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Excellent research vital to maintain UK’s global scientific standing

Redesigned PhD and masters programmes to attract and nurture the best researchers are at the centre of proposals to maintain Britain’s leading position in scientific research published by the Council of Science and Technology.

The report, by senior figures from across the field of science (including social science), engineering and technology, analyses the state of science and research within the UK against a rapidly changing global situation. It prescribes action to ensure that the UK is not eclipsed by the growing research strength of China and India.

Key recommendations from the report include:

  • Over the longer term the Government should rethink the Master degree/PhD landscape so that PhD degrees generally last for 4 years, with the first one or two years potentially leading to a Masters degree which could develop specific and widely-deployable skills
  • The Government should articulate the vision for UK research, put forward by CST, to justify sustained investment through a difficult period for public spending
  • The Government should put in place a framework for research; and investment to ensure research can be translated into real world benefits and help tackle global challenges.

The report focuses on people; prioritisation of research; organisation of the research and innovation landscape; and public engagement.

The report calls on the Government to put in place a range of measures which will attract the most talented international researchers to the UK, nurture the UK’s own leading researchers, and provide them with the facilities and stability of funding to enable the UK to be a magnet for those undertaking the best research in the world.

The current financial position makes this difficult in the short-term, but the reports suggest this can be achieved over the longer-term by:

  • rethinking the Master degree/PhD landscape so that PhD degrees generally last for 4 years, with the first one or two years potentially leading to a Masters degree which could develop specific and widely-deployable skills
  • putting in place a highly competitive national scholarship scheme across all UK universities aimed at recruiting and supporting the very best research students from the UK and around the world to do PhDs in UK universities
  • putting in place mechanisms for recruiting and retaining the best researchers at post-doctoral level through competitive personal support schemes
  • stimulating greater flexibility and mobility of researchers, in particular between academia and the business and public sectors, and rewarding them through the new Research Excellence Framework (REF)
  • introducing a national personal support scheme of prestigious research professorships for the very best 100 or so researchers in the country
  • embracing the internationalization of the research workforce, and making it both easy and attractive for the very best researchers from around the world to develop their work in the UK

The report calls for prioritization of two crucial processes: stimulating creativity in upstream research focusing on discovery, where excellence is the overriding criterion in creating a world class research base; and stimulating downstream research to exploit the outcomes for economic and social benefit.

The Government must continue to prioritise research funding against other competing financial pressures, against the background of public expenditure constraints. Strategic choices need to be made at the downstream, demand-led end of the research spectrum. The Government needs to ensure it continues to fund highly creative discovery research, with the purpose of maintaining the excellence, diversity and creativity of the research base, and ensuring that the UK remains a major attractor for international researchers and business.

The report argues that Government should support excellent research wherever it exists (but clearly not commercial research), and that funding should be directed towards those research centres and groups, wherever they are, who are excellent in research and in the translation of research outcomes into economic and social benefit.

Universities need to give greater priority to working together to develop more strategic, pan-university collaborations of their leading research groups, both within the UK and with oversees universities in the US, EU, China, India and other emerging economies.

Public engagement and dialogue
The Government must continue to prioritise and focus public engagement and dialogue as an integral part of developing its policies, particularly where novel technologies are being researched. Government, universities and all the major stakeholders for public engagement must show leadership right across the spectrum of public engagement and dialogue.

Research Councils UK (RCUK) welcomed the new report and will consider the recommendations made.

The Council for Science and Technology (CST) is the UK Prime Minister’s Top-Level Advisory Body on Science and Technology Policy Issues. CST’s remit is to advise the Prime Minister and the First Ministers of the devolved administrations on strategic issues that cut across the responsibilities of individual government departments. CST organises its work around five broad themes (research, science and society, education, science and government, and technology innovation) and takes a medium to long term approach.

Quelle: Pressemitteilungen des Council for Science and Technology und der Research Counc Redaktion: Länder / Organisationen: Vereinigtes Königreich (Großbritannien) Themen: Strategie und Rahmenbedingungen Förderung Infrastruktur Grundlagenforschung Innovation

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