Is the (Blue) Sky Falling in the U.K?

Managing News Editor

Calling for a "modest revolt," 20 United Kingdom scientists, including one Nobel laureate and eight Royal Society fellows, have launched a scathing attack on the U.K.'s seven research councils for now requiring grant applications to include a 2-page statement on the economic impact of the proposed work. In a letter to the Times Higher Education (THE), they call for peer-reviewers to ignore those summaries, arguing that they have no business predicting what research may produce an economic windfall. They also blame this financial mindset and a lack of private industry investment for causing a decline in the U.K.'s leadership in science, as reflected in a decreasing frequency of Nobel Prizes.

In a news story, THE notes a response by Philip Esler, chief executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, that includes this comment:

Research councils will not be disadvantaging blue-skies research, nor stifling creativity. The impact statement is not designed to ask peer reviewers or applicants to predict future benefits. It is intended to allow the applicant to highlight potential pathways to impact, especially through collaboration with partners, and to help the research councils support them in these activities.

Posted in Europe