Funding, diversity and wellbeing are essential for UK R&D

17 September 2020 | Muriel Cozier

The UK’s Science Minister gives wide ranging speech on the importance of R&D in the UK

Vitae Connections Week 2020, a four day event aimed at the research development community worldwide, took place this week.  The event, which was held online, covered many issues including the rapid transition to remote delivery of research and development and considered the long-term implications of covid-19 for the future of research.

Among the many speakers, UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway gave a wide ranging speech which highlighted the importance of the right environment for researchers to flourish.  

Stressing the essential role that R&D plays in the UK economy, the minister began by reminding delegates of the UK Government’s  recently launched Research and Development Roadmap, which outlines the UK’s  ‘bold new vision for the future of UK R&D.’

‘As I have worked with you to develop the Roadmap, and the People and Culture Strategy…I have heard a lot about what has made you successful – what has enabled you to do your work – and critically, what makes you want to stay in the UK.’ Solloway said. But she also stressed that she was aware of the barriers that prevented skilled and creative researchers from staying the UK and indeed research.

‘Because research is inherently creative, it’s about…venturing into the unknown.  People need to feel stable, appreciated and secure, in order to have the confidence and freedom to do their most imaginative and creative work,’ Solloway said.

For many researchers the aspect of security was strongly linked to funding, something Solloway said had to be looked at. ‘We also need to fund work properly. We must look seriously at whether the system of short-term grants for projects is really working; supporting people to do their best work. Or, [does it] instead promote a monoculture of bureaucracy and risk aversion.’

‘I want us to think about how we can use our funding to support creative and brilliant people, and places, not just the most promising projects. This means supporting well-funded teams, units and institutions,’ Solloway said.

Commenting on the need to promote a culture of wellbeing and stamp out all types of harassment and bullying, Solloway said:  ‘I want to be very clear; bullying and harassment are completely unacceptable.’

The Minister also used her speech to stress the importance of open access publishing.  ‘It is absurd that the very research community that gave us the great gift of the internet – the means to freely share information instantly with almost anyone around the world – still relies on an outdated system of publishing in closed-access journals which locks scientific discoveries away, tragically curtailing their usefulness…So let me restate this government’s commitment to full and immediate open access to all publically funded research.’

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