Threat to the survival of PPARC?
Attached to the Budget statement is a Dicussion Paper 'Science and innovation investment framework 2004-2014: next steps'
Its broad objectives, all aimed at improving economic performance against a background of tightened public spending over the next few years, are:
- ensuring that UK science is more responsive to economic and public policy priorities
- greater collaboration between industry and the research base
- making STEM subjects more attractive to students.
Translating these into plans could involve the abolition of PPARC viz.
'PPARC currently has a role both as a grant-giving Research Council and as an investor in large facilities. This has created different funding arrangements for different parts of the physical sciences, the remainder being the responsibility of EPSRC. If the large facilities operations currently managed by PPARC were to be transferred to a new Large Facilities Council, this would be an opportunity to integrate PPARC’s grant-giving operations with EPSRC. This would effectively mean that a single Research Council (EPSRC) would have responsibility for the full spectrum of physical sciences funding, and would be of particular benefit to physics departments, which have faced difficulties in attaining long-term sustainability'
The Astronomy and Geophysics communities will be considering whether their sciences will gain or lose from such a development at the National Astronomy Meeting in Leicester April 3-7. They will also consider the impact on curiosity- driven research of the government's requirement that Research Councils deliver – and demonstrate they are delivering – a major increase in the economic impact of their investments.
The Discussion Paper, to which the RAS will be responding, includes important suggestions for the allocation of research funding after 2008 given that 'the Government has a firm presumption that after the 2008 RAE the system for assessing research quality and allocating “quality-related” (QR) research funding to universities from the Department for Education and Skills will be mainly metrics-based'.
Less contentiously,the Discussion Paper contains welcome suggestions to improve achievement in school level science by up-grading the skills of science teachers and the quality of science lessons to increase progression to A level sciences
The Discussion Paper can be read here