Thus, Times Higher Education [ THE ] reported the increasingly small chance that researchers now have of squeezing cash out of six research councils. Across the piece, applicants have a 23% chance of funding, and the figure is less than 20% for two of the councils (AHRC & ESRC). Two many desperate people chasing too little money, it seems, and probably too little internal scrutiny to make sure than only high quality applications leave the institution. Those of us at the sharp end of this didn't need the THE to tell us about it, of course, but the full figures are illuminating.
Time for some creative thinking, perhaps, so here's an idea for the research councils. Charge universities for making bids. Those who are successful get it back; those who aren't, don't. Instead it gets added to the sums available for research. But how much should it be? It might differ, of course, from council to council, it might be a % of the grant total (a sort of grant value tax at 10%), or a fixed sum so as not to disincentivise large bids (£10,000 a go perhaps). As for outcomes, well, uncertain as ever, of course, and probably perverse, but universities might well change their bidding habits. NB, this is not to be seen as an alternative to increasing the amount of funding for research.