Thursday, 22 July 2010
Wissenberg takes over from Ian Diamond who is moving on to be VC at Aberdeen. She joined the ESRC in 2003 as Director of Communications and Information. Previous to that, she had a varied academic career in London, Glasgow and her home country of the Netherlands. Wissenberg was assistant-director of Information Services and Systems at King's College London before joining the ESRC.
If you would like more information on any of these calls, or just want the Commission-speak deciphered, do get in touch.
Friday, 16 July 2010
Promoting Cross-Disciplinary Research aims to fund a small number of cross-disciplinary projects around:
- Quantitative Aspects of Understanding Behaviours, which could include:
- new models of social systems
- understanding behaviours and engineering behavioural change.
- understanding vs. simulation in decision making
- Behaviour could include: social relations, social practices, social structures, organisational behaviour, economic behaviour and social institutions
- Innovation at the Bottom of the Pyramid, which could include:
- Novel technologies for developing countries or deprived social systems.
- Disruptive technologies for development
- Optimisation of cutting edge technology
- Technical solutions very different from traditional approaches
Discipline-Hopping will be smaller awards, aimed at encouraging researchers to cross disciplinary boundaries. Up to £1 million has been earmarked for this targeted activity and, subject to the quality of the submissions received, it is anticipated that we will fund approximately 10 proposals. Deadline: 16 September 2010.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
Prof. Jon Williamson (SECL) and Dr Peter Bennett (DICE)will lead a workshop on collaborative and interdisciplinary research on Weds 15 September between 11.00am and 2.00pm.
Both Peter and Jon have worked extensively on large scale funded collaborative projects and with colleagues from other disciplines including the sciences, social sciences and humanities.
The workshop will cover:
- The benefits and drawbacks of working collaboratively
- Generating ideas for interdisciplinary research
- The logistics of building effective collaborations and managing projects
Work with others, he suggested: 'creative research partnerships represent very good value for money.' It's a timely reminder. It would be all to easy to retrench and stick to what you know in uncertain times. Branching out and striking up new collaborations takes time, energy and commitment, but could pay dividends. Henley's encouragement is timely: we're planning to run a workshop in September as part of the Grants Factory about how to foster collaborative partnerships. More details shortly.
However, the group met with a 'dogmatic' response. RCUK took their concerns 'very seriously,' but rejected them. Prof Don Braben, leader of the group, said that 'in my long experience of dealing with officialdom, I have not come across such an overtly dogmatic stance. Alan Thorpe and his colleagues were completely unmoved by scientific arguments, and indeed, refused in effect to discuss them.'
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
The second piece of news is that Two Brains Willetts, in his speech on 9 July, said that he 'appreciates why scientists are wary' of impact, going on to announce a delay of a year to the REF. The delay would mean submissions in 2013, with the results in 2014, to inform funding from 2015.
Wariness or consensus? Or consensus around wariness? You decide.
Monday, 12 July 2010
If you want to add your voice to the chorus currently building in objection to the cuts, send an email of support to Claire Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why are you a partner on this project?
What do you and your organisation hope to get out of this collaboration?
How have you and your organisation contributed to the preparation of the proposal and the Pathways to Impact included in the application?
What will you and your organisation be contributing towards the project?
Include any cash and in-kind contributions. In-kind contributions can include staff time, access to equipment in your organisation, provision of data, software or materials.
Wednesday, 7 July 2010
Whilst recognising the success of research in the UK, he said that 'in the current economic climate we will see restrictions in public expenditure and higher education in the UK will need to play its part in demonstrating greater efficiency.'
'Greater efficiency' means cutting 5% p.a. off the Indirect Costs rate for university fEC budgets for the next three years. For those with a lower rate - including Kent - this will be 2.5%. This seems to go counter to the original ethos of fEC, which was to ensure the sustainability of research in higher education. If it was decided that the current indirect costs were set at a sustainable level, surely 5% below that is not sustainable?
The press release from RCUK/UUK is available here, and the full report is available here.
Monday, 5 July 2010
As if these attractions weren't enough, word is that staff are being offered generous travel allowances for up to three years to sugar the pill of having to commute from Bristol. But surely staff should be paying the AHRC for the privilege of working somewhere this good? After all, it's not many places that can claim to be a home from home for Mickey and co.
So, if you want to contact the AHRC from now on, here's their new contact details:
North Star Avenue
Swindon SN2 1FL
Tel: 01793 41 6000
The thinking behind it is that research funding is spread thinly across Europe and, if we want to attract and retain the best researchers globally we need to act more collectively. They gave an example of public funding in EU27 compared with that in the USA: each EU country has some pot of money (with the Germans having the most, at around €170m). However, none come close to the US total of €100bn. But when you add all the EU funding together it comes to €90bn, which is much more respectable.
So you can see the logic: act together, and we're greater the sum of our parts. So how does it work in practice? Well of course, this being Europe, a committee has been formed: the High Level Group for Joint Programming (or GPC for short, from the French “Groupe de haut niveau pour la Programmation Conjointe"). The GPC maps out the current funding coverage for research at the moment and identifies areas of shortage. The first area, which became a Joint Programming Initiative (JPI), was on Alzheimer's - see the link below. After this, the Phase 1 JPIs were confirmed in December 2009 as:
- Agriculture, food security and climate change
- A healthy diet for a healthy life (formerly known as "Health, food and prevention of diet-related diseases")
- Cultural heritage & global change (formerly known as "Cultural heritage, climate change and security")
In May the GPC identified the Phase 2 themes as:
- Urban Europe
- Connecting Climate Knowledge for Europe
- More years, better lives
- Antimicrobial resistance
- Water challenges for a Chaning World
- Healthy & productive seas and oceans
- Initial Training Networks (ITNs): Overall: 7%; UK: 16%
- Intra-European Fellowships (IEFs): Overall: 24%; UK: 30%
- European Reintegration Grants (ERGs): Overall: 65% (!); UK: 57%
- International Reintegration Grants (IRGs): 67% (!!); 78% (!!!)
- Industry-Academia Partnerships & Pathways (IAPPs): Overall: 16%; UK: 20%
- International Outgoing Fellowships (IOFs): Overall: 20%; UK: 29%
- International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES): Overall: 65%; UK: 66%
- International Incoming Fellowships (IIFs): Overall: 15%; UK: 18%
- Co-Funding of Regional, National & International Programmes (COFUND): Overall: 66%; UK: 100% (though that was one application out of one).