Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

1.   An analysis of the cost efficiency of Fellowships and other training schemes, indicating whether accounts isolate associated administrative costs:

  It is difficult to disassociate the administration of our Fellowships from that of our other schemes. However, there is no reason to assume that the efficiency of the administration of Research Fellowships is any different to that of our other schemes. The NERC Operating Plan calculates NERC's overall administration costs to be 4.1 per cent.

2.  A comparison of the characteristics of our schemes, for example career breaks and mentoring:

  A summary of Fellowship schemes is provided below. Full details can be found on our web site at: The NERC Fellowship scheme is intended to provide opportunities for outstanding environmental scientists to develop, establish and maintain an international reputation in environmental research. Awards are available at three different levels, each corresponding approximately to different stages in an academic career.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

  Three years (+ two extension years[8])

  Recurrent grant of £7k pa

  Early career development award, to provide further post-doctoral experience and to support outstanding environmental scientists as they become independent investigators. Up to one year can be spent at a collaborative institution in the UK or overseas.

Advanced Research Fellow

  Five years (+ five extension years)

  Recurrent grant of £8k pa

  To enable outstanding early/mid career researchers to develop into team leaders of international standing. Up to two years can be spent at a collaborative institution in the UK or overseas.

Senior Research Fellow

  Five years (+ five extension years)

  Recurrent grant of £10k pa

  To enable proven researchers of international standing at mid/peak career level (eg HEI Readership level) to devote themselves to personal research. Up to two years can be spent at a collaborative institution in the UK or overseas.

  Our Fellowship schemes have standard "characteristics" with respect to issues such as career breaks and mentoring. NERC Fellowships are also covered by sickness, maternity and paternity provision. As part of NERC's policy of promoting equal opportunities, Fellowships may be held on a part-time/flexible basis if required, and Fellows may, subject to NERC approval and the support of the host institution, move to part-time or more flexible working if their personal circumstances change.

  NERC expects host institutions to carry out regular appraisals of all Fellows. Appraisals will normally be undertaken under the regulations and mechanisms of the host institution and should enable the department and Fellow to form the best possible assessment of, and feedback on, the individual's performance and future development. Appraisals should include consideration of in-service training requirements, career guidance and personal development.

  In addition, NERC co-sponsors a number of Fellowships with the Daphne Jackson Memorial Trust, which are aimed at providing opportunities for scientists to return to research following a career break.

3.   An explanation of how schemes deal with applications for interdisciplinary research

  For convenience, our applications are classified into five areas (atmospheric, earth, freshwater, marine, terrestrial). As with all classification systems, it is inevitable that some applications cross the boundaries, and indeed NERC encourages interdisciplinary research. In such cases, one of the five committees will take the lead in assessing the proposal, although views will be sought from the other relevant committee(s), and the wider science community in the case of peer review. The applicant will be advised of which committee is taking the lead, and is able to discuss this with NERC if there are any concerns. Applicants are also provided with the names of the panel members before the interview.

  It should be noted that one of our successful applicants this year is carrying out research that cuts across both the atmospheric and earth sciences.

8   Applications for extensions to existing Fellowships are considered in open competition with applications for new Fellowships. Back

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