Research Fortnight

BIS axes annual survey of industry R&D

Last one shows UK corporate spending holds up in recession.

The government will no longer produce its annual R&D Scoreboard, which analyses R&D spending among the top 1,000 UK and top 1,000 global corporate investors in R&D. The latest edition, which analyses corporate R&D spending in 2009, will be the last.

“While this useful tool has helped us to track progress on investment, both domestically and overseas, today’s companies better understand the importance of R&D to their long-term success. At the same time, unprecedented financial pressures have made it necessary to reduce public spending,” science minister David Willetts wrote in the foreword to the report. Read more in Research Fortnight.

Is industry walking away from academia?

Recession-hit companies scale back university liaison offices.

Universities could find it more difficult to find industry research partners as hi-tech companies look to scale back or close their academic liaison departments in the wake of the financial crisis.

The defence technology company QinetiQ, spun out of the government’s Defence Evaluation and Research Agency in 2001, has closed its central academic liaison department. And within the past few months, the mobile telecoms company Vodaphone has moved its academic cooperation work into a single office in Germany. Previously, academic liaison was handled by a team scattered across different countries including Germany, the UK and Spain. Read more in Research Fortnight.

LibDem grassroots wait and see on science

Liberal Democrat activists at the party’s conference in Liverpool have adopted a ‘wait and see’ attitude to the coalition’s science policy.

“I think the jury’s still out,” Ken Cosslett, chairman of the Association of Liberal Democrat Engineers and Scientists told Research Fortnight. “But we will definitely be discussing it at our AGM on Wednesday.”

After winning the support of many scientists in the election campaign, when the Liberal Democrats were seen to have the best science policy of the three main parties, opinion has swung away in recent weeks as the reality of big cuts to the science budget begin to hit home. Cosslett says the association is concerned about how much influence the party is having in the coalition. Read more in Research Fortnight.

Steady on, Damian!

Immigration minister Damian Green wants to crack down on foreign students who stay in the UK after graduating. Research Fortnight news editor Brian Owens wonders if that means him.

A couple of weeks ago, I was surprised to find myself a subject of discussion on the BBC’s Today programme on Radio 4. Well, not me personally, but a group of people that includes me.

On 6 September, immigration minister Damian Green said that Home Office research had found that a fifth of the 185,000 people given student visas in 2004 were still in the UK five years later. He used this statistic to support his argument that student immigration levels were “unsustainable”, “out of control” and indicated students would be one of his main targets in the government’s reform of the immigration system. Read more in Research Fortnight.

Small charities bring opportunities to neglected fields of research

Twenty years ago, Nick Lemoine was the only researcher in the UK dedicated to pancreatic cancer. “I’m pretty sure Walter Bodmer, the head of the Imperial Cancer Reseach Fund, thought I was working on prostate cancer, because it started with a ‘P’,” he says. “I didn’t disabuse him of that, it was just easier that way.”

But over the past few years the situation has begun to change dramatically thanks in no small way to the efforts of small but pioneering research charity the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund founded in 2004 by Maggie Blanks. Read more in Research Fortnight.

Don’t panic

The speedy insertion of impact assessment into the plans for the Research Excellence Framework last month has alarmed academics. To grade work not just on its scholarly merits but on how useful it is, economically and socially, is anathema to many researchers. But the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s plans are not as bad as they may seem, and their potential adverse consequences pale in comparison with those of the equally hasty implementation of the impact agenda at the research councils. Read more in Research Fortnight.