Spending Review 2010 - HC 618Written evidence submitted by members of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (SR 08)

We are members of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, one of the world’s leading institutions for studying mental processes in the human brain. We are directly concerned about cuts to the UK’s science and research budget announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review (10% in real terms from 2011–12 to 2014–15) that have already started to have a detrimental impact in our area of research, one in which the UK currently excels.

(1)Many funding bodies have already announced cuts in their funding for cognitive neuroscience research:

(a)The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has announced large cuts (minimum 20%, equivalent to at least £4 million per year) to neuroscience and psychology funding;

(b)The Economic and Social Research Council has terminated their Small Grants Scheme (for research costing £50,000–£100,000);

(c)The British Academy has suspended the Research Development Award scheme (for research costing up to £150,000).

(2)These cuts will disproportionately affect early career investigators (<10 years’ postdoctoral experience), who often depend on the smaller grant schemes that have been cut while building up experience to apply for larger grants. Often a small amount of initial funding allows collection of valuable pilot data that can then be used to make substantial grant applications more competitive.

(3)The UK is currently a magnet for research talent, and provides exceptional value for money on investment in science and research. These cuts have the potential to result in a loss of talent in cognitive neuroscience from the UK, as researchers realise that research funding is easier to obtain in countries that are investing in science. This loss may be particularly exacerbated amongst independent investigators towards the beginning of their career, for whom funding is now very difficult to obtain. Training world-class scientists takes many years, and these individuals would be difficult to replace. Hence, the impact of such migration would be most marked in future years, as these individuals no longer progress to more senior positions.

(4)The reduction in overall grant funding available means that the number of postdoctoral training posts and PhD studentships available in the UK will fall. As a consequence, it is not just more established investigators that are likely to move abroad, but individuals at the very start of their career. These individuals are less likely to return.

(5)Graduating PhD students whose doctoral studies the UK has paid for, through research council funds, the Higher Education Funding Council Research budget, or both, will find that it is more difficult to secure a postdoctoral research position in the UK. As a result, talented researchers who have completed many years of publicly-funded training will leave science for other careers, or go abroad to develop their careers.

These factors leave the future of cognitive neuroscience in the UK in a parlous state. Losing young talent in this field threatens the UK’s deserved world-class reputation in cognitive neuroscience.

Dr Jonathan Roiser

Signed on behalf of:

Prof Sarah-Jayne BlakemoreProf Paul BurgessDr Joern DiedrichsenProf Jon DriverProf Emrah DuzelProf Patrick HaggardProf Masud HusainProf Nilli LavieDr Leun OttenProf Geraint ReesProf Sophie ScottProf Vincent Walsh

The signatories declare that they have no competing financial interests.

15 April 2011

Prepared 7th November 2011