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Royal Society submission to the Nurse Review of the Research Councils

20 April 2015

In the Government Science and Innovation Strategy published in December last year, Ministers asked Sir Paul Nurse to lead an Advisory Group to review, with Research Councils, how they can evolve to support research in the most effective ways. The Review is being carried out by Sir Paul in his personal capacity without direct involvement of the Society.

The Society has submitted a response to the call for evidence to inform the Review. The response has been overseen by the Society’s Council and a Working Group chaired by Professor Alex Halliday, Vice-President of the Society. Appropriate governance processes have been put in place to ensure the Society’s response is independent from Sir Paul’s review.

In the response the Society recommends a number of proposals that the Nurse Review should consider, including:

  • UK investment in research has clear economic and social benefits and should be increased to align with other leading knowledge economies.
  • Funding research excellence should be the main function of the Research Councils (RCs). Expertise and evidence is needed to ensure that excellence is reflected in decision making.
  • The dual support system should be maintained but the Full Economic Cost (FEC) system and its adequacy should be reviewed. 
  • Funding decisions, from grants to large strategic investments, should be more transparent and those making them should be accountable to the public and the scientific community.
  • An independent high-level Science Strategy Advisory Body (SSAB) should be established including representatives from the RCs, CST, research-intensive Government departments and the scientific and business communities. Its primary role would be to advise the Director General of Knowledge and Innovation, or equivalent, on strategic investment and national capability.
  • There are opportunities to further strengthen RC leadership, cross-Council coordination, sustainability of investment and stakeholder engagement.