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Calling all Brits!   

14 May 2009 7,699 views 11 Comments

Fellow Brits!  Time to raise your heads from newspapers documenting the slow-motion car-crash that is Gordon Brown’s career, and petition the government!  Why?  Because the EPSRC are planning to change the process of applying for funding.

Apparently, they want to blacklist researchers who apply for funding but are unsuccessful in their application in more than 75% of cases.  Most academics get the odd proposal refused, so the average failure rate is 65-85% – meaning many would be black listed.  Please consider signing the petition (created by Prof. Joe Sweeny):


This proposal can only hurt younger and less well established academics, ruining their progression and careers.

Thanks! (Especially to Martyn for alerting me of this)

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  • Alastair says:

    So let’s say I am a new lecturer. I am still building professional contacts, experience and my network, whilst at the same time probably doing a large amount of lab work, teaching and administration too.

    My first three applications are turned down…..

    This is a truly ridiculous idea. Who decided to install a moronic bunch of bean counters into the “leadership” at the EPSRC? They could have subcontracted Fisher-Price to come up with a better system than that.


  • TWYI says:

    How long is this blacklist proposed to last?

    A ban from applying for funding for the rest of your career?!


  • Tok says:

    I think it’s per season. So if you’re at 75% failure this year, then you can’t apply next year, but you can the year after that. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  • TWYI says:

    So you would presumably then have a ‘clean slate’ after your one year ban?

    the details are probably in the link, will have a look.

  • milkshake says:

    slow-motion train wreck would be a better analogy (a train driver cannot control the direction)

  • InfMP says:

    milkshake – nice.

  • InfMP says:

    there is an old three part series on chemistry in Britain and how hard it is to get funding. featuring jack baldwin and steven davies.

    it seems the government there does not value chemistry (and apparently hasnèt changed its mind)


  • European Chemist says:

    If the current failure rate is already at 65-85%, this really makes little sense. The funny thing is, in the scenario Alastair described, as a new lecturer he would already have 100% of failures with those first 3 applications rejected :-) LOL You need at least one successful grant application so that counting makes any sense at all!!

    On the other hand, that 65-85% rate means one of two things: either there’s really not enough money to support even the half of the country’s academics OR independent researchers in the UK are actually below par. Given the statistics from EU funding that place the UK in first or second place, I would seriously doubt the validity of the second assumption…

    All in all, ludicrous. I hope the EPSRC is not the only state funding agency for academic scientific research in the UK????…

  • Martyn says:

    As mentioned by LW in the amphidinolide X post, it seems that this plan has been partly revised – rather than being banned outright from applying for a year, you will now be limited to a single application. See
    http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2009/May/05050904.asp for more details.

    Still hardly a satisfactory situation, and not just for new academics – I did my PhD with a professor you’ve probably all heard of, with ~500 publications, who would also have been blacklisted according to these criteria.

  • DH says:

    Thanks for promoting this cause, but your info is a bit out of date.
    The new policy was first announced in March, and produced a huge outcry. So much so that last week, the EPSRC backtracked and the rule now is that frequently unsuccessful applicants are allowed 1 application in the year when they are expected to “re-consider their submission strategy”
    More worrying is that this was announced with a bunch of other changes that will make it harder to get funding – for example, all Physical Sciences grants now compete against each other for funding. How is total synthesis fairly compared with materials science or physics?