Backtracking on "Blacklisting"

Deputy News Editor

After howls of protests and charges of "blacklisting," a U.K. research council has partially backed away from a new policy that would have prevented repeatedly unsuccessful grant applicants from submitting new proposals. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will now allow those scientists to still submit one proposal within a 12-month period, according to an amended policy released today. “They’re restricted rather than excluded,” says an EPSRC spokesperson. “If someone has a great idea, it won’t be missed.” And rather than the policy going into effect retrospectively, it won’t be enforced until April 2010.

EPSRC is hoping to reduce the volume of grants that volunteer scientists must evaluate, but some researchers were so angered by the new policy that they vowed not to look at grant submissions to the council. The modifications to the policy may bring grudging acceptance, though not happiness. Joseph Sweeney of the University of Reading, an organic chemist who had started a petition against the original EPSRC restrictions, calls the altered policy “not unreasonable.” He adds that “making it nonretrospective is a big deal.” Philip Page, an organic chemist at the University of East Anglia who also challenged EPSRC’s original policy, still chafes at the modified policy, but he will now continue to peer-review grant proposals for the council. “I should have liked to see the blacklisting abandoned altogether, and I do not think that this change in policy goes far enough, but it is good to see that EPSRC has taken some notice of the community that it serves,” says Page.

Posted in Europe