Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Dr Robert Leeming

  The HEFCE's research funding formulae will have a devastating effect on emerging research groups and those who are striving to move upwards. The bulk of funding will go to those who have proved themselves in the past but that is no guarantee for the future. Unfortunately we are stuck with this as private research funding is becoming increasingly international with global economics. Inevitably this will lead to fewer research groups in fewer universities and less likelihood of novelty. Research groups usually start with one good idea then proceed from innovative research to pot-boilers. They should stand on their present merit and potential difficult to put into practise as the peer review system is not without serious flaws.

  In tertiary education, the value of research is that it gives enthusiasm to the teaching process which can otherwise become depressingly stale.

  Regional distribution is not of paramount importance, England is small and people are mobile. However, the juxtaposition of mathematics and physics also chemistry and biology in any single university must be put into the context of its curriculum. Molecular biology (for example) and biochemistry are not exclusively contained by what are generally understood to be biology and chemistry.

  The basic sciences (chemistry, physics mathematics and biology) are of strategic importance economically and the only way they can be strengthened is by subsidising students fees and/or selective funding of universities teaching them. The cost to the country of the proliferation of "Media Studies" "Psychology" "Forensic Science" and the effect on the graduates when they find their degrees have no market value is deplorable. That money could be put to better use.

  I am retired from my several University attachments but retain an honorary post as: Honorary Senior Clinical Fellow, Clinical Chemistry, Children's Hospital, Birmingham.

January 2005

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