Memorandum submitted by Research Councils
The seven UK Research Councils are
the largest public funders of research in the UK, investing over
£3 billion per annum in research, training and knowledge
transfer across a broad spectrum of research areas. The Councils
have a UK-wide remit.
The central criterion for funding
of research is academic excellence which is identified by the
Councils through thorough and detailed peer review. In 2006-07
around 3% of total Research Council research grant funding to
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) was awarded to HEIs in Wales.
The Research Councils also fund training
of postgraduate students. These funds are also awarded on the
basis of excellence. In 2006-07 around 5% of the postgraduate
students studying in the UK were enrolled at HEIs in Wales.
1.The seven UK Research Councils are the largest
public funders of research in the UK, investing over £3 billion
per annum in research, training and knowledge transfer across
a broad spectrum of research areas. The seven Research Councils
Arts and Humanities Research Council
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
Research Council (BBSRC)
Economic and Social Research Council
Engineering and Physical Sciences
Research Council (EPSRC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
Natural Environment Research Council
Science and Technologies Facilities
2. Each Council is an independent Non-Departmental
Public Body established by Royal Charter and sponsored by the
Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). The
Councils are funded by DIUS with an allocation from the Science
Budget. Details of the funding provided for the present Spending
Review period (2008-11) are available in the Science Budget Allocations
published by DIUS.
3. The Research Councils fund research in
Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), their own Research Institutes
and some Independent Research Organisations. The Councils have
a UK-wide remit.
4. Research Councils UK (RCUK)
is the strategic partnership of the seven Research Councils. Through
RCUK the Councils work together to deliver their shared missions
and objectives. The memorandum is submitted by RCUK on behalf
of the seven Councils.
5. The Councils, broadly speaking, employ
two approaches to distributing funds for research. The first is
driven by ideas for fruitful research topics generated by the
research community and is known as response mode. In the second
approach, Councils, in consultation with their research communities
and other stakeholders, identify strategically important areas
of study and commission research within these areas. This is known
as directed or programme mode, and in some cases this involves
multidisciplinary research that crosses the boundaries between
the Councils. In both cases the central criterion for funding
of research is academic excellence which is identified through
thorough and detailed peer review.
6. As a result of this fundamental commitment
to fund excellent research wherever it is being carried out within
the UK, the Councils do not allocate funding on a regional basis.
This means that the distribution of Research Council funding between
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales varies from year
to year depending on the quality of research proposals received.
The distribution of funds for research by the seven Research Councils
during financial year 2006-07 is provided in Table 1. This shows
that around 3% of funding to HEIs by the Research Councils was
directed to Welsh HEIs, although there is considerable variation
between Councils, with a range of 2-8%. For comparison, the proportion
of UK academic staff employed by Welsh HEIs was around 5% in 2004-05
(the last year where data is currently publicly available).
7. Research Council support for research
includes the provision of facilities accessible to researchers
UK-wide. A large part of STFC's remit is to provide such facilities,
and NERC also funds a range of services and facilities
which researchers eligible to apply for NERC research funding
can apply to use, irrespective of their location in the UK.
8. The Research Councils also provide funding
for postgraduate research students, provided as either grants
to individuals or block grants to HEIs. Students are selected
on the basis of excellence, normally by HEIs themselves. Data
on the location of postgraduate students within the UK are available
from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)in summary,
in 2006-07 around 5% of the postgraduate students studying in
the UK were enrolled at HEIs in Wales.
9. In 2006 the RCUK-supported UK GRAD programme
published "What do PhDs do? A regional analysis of first
destinations for all UK-domiciled PhD graduates".
This document is an excellent source of information concerning
postgraduate study in Wales (see pages 87-93) including the split
between disciplines and career destinations.
10. A policy secondment scheme for postgraduate
students has enabled two students funded by NERC to spend three
months working in the Members' Research Service of the National
Assembly of Wales during the 2007-08 academic year, and further
such secondments are planned for 2008-09.
11. In addition to funding research at HEIs,
three Research Councils (BBSRC, MRC and NERC) also support their
own research institutes. NERC operates at two sites in Wales (Bangor
and Cardiff). Prior to 1 April 2008 BBSRC operated the Institute
for Grassland and Environmental Research based at Aberystwyththis
operation has recently transferred to the University of Wales,
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bangor
12. The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
(CEH) at Bangor is one of four
research facilities operated by CEH across the UK to deliver research
in land and freshwater environments. The Bangor facility, which
in 2008 has a staff complement of 30, contributes to the overall
science aims of CEH as laid out in its science strategy and delivers
this in partnership with a range of Welsh, UK and international
research organisations and funders. It responds to specific research
needs of Wales through directly commissioned projects and by contributing
to the Welsh environmental research and policy community through
a range of joint initiatives.
13. NERC contributed £3.6 million in
capital investment for the Environment Centre Wales (ECW) opened
in Bangor on 15 February 2008 by the Prime Minister. The new £7
million centre of excellence for environmental science co-locates
the scientific expertise of CEH and Bangor University in a partnership
to deliver new research working across traditional science boundaries.
ECW also houses the newly established "Wales Environment
14. Further details of activities carried
out by the CEH Bangor are provided in Annex A.
British Geological Survey, Cardiff
15. Work undertaken at the British Geological
Survey (BGS) Cardiff Office includes a portfolio of SB, contract
research (CR) and co-funded projects designed specifically to:
investigate the geological evolution
maintain and improve the BGS knowledge
base regarding the geology of Wales; and
provide expertise and gather data
which allow BGS to meet the needs of Welsh stakeholders including
central and local government in Wales, Environment Agency (EA)
Wales and Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), as well as national
UK government departments and NGOs.
16. The office runs a Welsh enquiry service
which deals with requests for geoscience information and advice
from both public and private sector bodies, as well as members
of the public. An additional function of the office is to promote
the relevance of earth science research and information in the
context of the Welsh Assembly Government's strategy and policy
for sustainable land use planning and development in Wales, and
as a part of the wider BGS/NERC effort to raise awareness of national
and global environmental issues with the general public.
17. Currently five earth scientists, led
by the Chief Geologist Wales, are based at the BGS Cardiff site;
a further five members of the core Wales team are stationed at
other BGS sites. In addition to its Wales enquiry service, the
office is a point of sale for BGS products; it also serves as
the principal route in Wales by which stakeholders can access
the broader spectrum of BGS services and expertise based at other
18. Further details of activities carried
out by the BGS Cardiff office are provided in Annex B.
Institute for Grassland and Environmental Research,
19. Until April 2008, Institute of Grassland
and Environmental Research (IGER) was a BBSRC sponsored institute,
employing 280 scientific and technical staff with an annual income
of £17 million. Its research programme included work on genetics
and the environment that focuses on grassland land-use systems
that lead to a sustainable rural economy; a healthy environment;
and a safe and high-quality food chain. IGER has been actively
transferring the benefits of its expertise to industry, including
new opportunities in the energy, pharmaceuticals and environmental
20. On 1 April 2008, the Welsh-based sites
of IGER merged with Institute of Biological, Environmental and
Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University to become the Institute
of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS). The merger
will be accompanied by new investment in facilities and people
to create an enlarged multidisciplinary centre of excellence for
research and education in sustainable land-use, and a new driving
force supporting biological sciences, agriculture and the environment.
The merger, which is supported by BBSRC, the Institute's Governing
Body and the Councils of Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities,
will build on expertise in innovation, enterprise and teaching,
presenting an outstanding opportunity to consolidate and enhance
the scientific contribution of Aberystwyth worldwide.
RESEARCH FUNDING TO HEIs IN UK TERRITORIES
| Research grant funding to HEIs1 in 2006-07, £000s (% of UK total)|
|| BBSRC || ESRC2
|| EPSRC || MRC
|| NERC || STFC3
|| Total |
Source: Research Council Annual Reports for 2006-07
1. This table does not include the funding provided to
Public Sector Research Establishments (including the Research
Councils own Institutes).
2. Figures for ESRC include funding for research and training.
3. STFC was formed in April 2007 following the merger of the
Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) and the
Council for the Central Laboratories of the Research Councils
(CCLRC) and the figures in this table are the sum of those for
PPARC and CCLRC for 2006-07.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE CENTRE FOR ECOLOGY AND HYDROLOGY,
CEH does not allocate science funding on a regional basis
but according to its three science programmes which deliver its
science aims. However, direct allocation on a regional basis is
used to support the non-science costs of running each facility.
A rough calculation puts the total funding by CEH/NERC at Bangor
at approximately £0.6 million of the £1.8 million annual
turnover. The remaining £1.2 million income is won from a
range of stakeholders such as Defra, the EU and the National Assembly
for Wales. This allocation has been roughly stable over the past
The "Wales Environment Research Hub" coordinates
environmental research and evidence gathering in Wales to inform
Welsh Assembly Government policies and actions.
It is funded by a consortium of environment research users and
providers in Wales including CEH which provides approximately
10% of the annual running costs at £15k per annum.
CEH Bangor supports NERC's remit for training through co-supervision
of 10 PhD students each year and contributes to Masters level
teaching within Bangor University.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE BRITISH GEOLOGICAL SURVEY OFFICE
BGS operates through science programmes and does not directly
allocate Science Budget (SB) to Wales except to support specific
Geology and Landscape activities that relate wholly to Wales.
In 2008-09 these have been allocated £469k.
Between 2001 and 2006 BGS received an annual £40k grant
from the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to support the BGS mapping
programme in mid Wales (£200k in total). Other major WAG-funded
contract research projects undertaken over the past five years
include the production of a Coal Resources Map for Wales (£80k);
grants from the Assembly-administered Aggregate Levy Sustainability
Fund supporting BGS involvement in a study of the impact of sand
and gravel dredging on marine habitats in the Bristol Channel
(£448.5k) in partnership with the National Museum of Wales
and Bangor University; as well as the Fforest Fawr Geopark initiative
(£101k over two years), and the recently approved audit of
Regionally Important Geological Sites (RIGS) in south-east Wales
(£297k over three years).
WELSH HEI LINKS
In the past five years BGS has offered support funding for
two CASE studentships based at the Centre for Glaciology at Aberystwyth
University. BGS, together with WAG, EA Wales and CCW, co-funded
the project "Modelling and predicting future flood risk in
Welsh river catchments" undertaken in collaboration with
the River Catchments and Processes Research Group also based at
Aberystwyth. The results of this research informed the published
WAG policy on "Development and flood risk" which utilises
BGS data in the guidance it provides.
Outreach activities are an important component of the Cardiff-based
work and supporting and promoting geodiversity initiatives in
Wales forms a key aspect. BGS is one of the core partners, with
Brecon Beacons National Park and Cardiff University overseeing
the development of the Fforest Fawr Geopark. Cardiff based staff
participate on this geopark's Management Group and Partnership
Board and are also aiding the CCW and county council with their
geopark initiative for Anglesey.
See http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/ for further details. Back
Source: Data published on websites of Higher Education Funding
Council for England (http://www.hefce.ac.uk/; total number of
academic staff at HEIs in the UK) and Higher Education Funding
Council for Wales (http://www.hefcw.ac.uk/; total number of academic
staff at HEIs in Wales). Back
Source: Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). Back
See http://www.grad.ac.uk/ for further details. Back
Available from Back
Four under the new CEH structure, once current reorganisation
has been completed. Back