I was most entertained to read about EPSRCs funding policy changes. Basically, they have taken a long hard look at their system for funding, they have decided that the peer-review system has fundamental problems, and have therefore issued their well thought out and considered solution to the problem: blame the users.

Their idea is this; if you are on too many grants that fail, then you won’t be allowed to submit again until you have been on some sort of re-education camp. The basic criteria appear to be this: three or more unfunded proposals, ranked in the bottom half, and lower than 25% success over the same two years.

The first criteria is problematic because it is based on an aggregate score; it is impossible to judge in advance whether you are going to be in bottom half; your proposal could be brilliant and internationally outstanding (EPSRC is like Lake Wobegon, all the grants are above average) and you could still be in the bottom half. The second half of the criterion is also interesting; if you submit a single proposal and it gets rejected then you are fall into this category straight away. It’s also going to mean that it’s going to be harder to get people to do collaborative grants, as it might bring their stats down. This is after EPSRC have been pushing us for years to put at least 5 different institutions on each proposal if we want it to be funded.

At the same time, information about the REF which is to follow up from the wonderous RAE is starting to trickle out. Nice to see that they are still going to reinforce the existing closed publication system with more bibliometric data. The “You are the REF” website offers itself as a way to work out your score. Excitingly the first question is “What is your discipline?”; Computer Scientist or Biologist. This seems reflective of the REF documentation that I have seen already. It works on this basis: different disciplines have different rules, so we will make different decisions in each, which is fine, because no one can be in two anyway.

Glad to see that the REF is carrying on the RAE tradition of encouraging multi-disciplinary research.

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