Back Researchers, Not Research, Say U.K. Science Advisers

With the struggling economy putting a squeeze on research funding in the United Kingdom, a government-appointed advisory panel called the Council for Science and Technology today released a report about the future of Britain's scientific enterprise.

A Vision for UK Research acknowledges that given its research spending, Britain produces a disproportionately large number of top rank publications, but it notes that British researchers are not adept at translating that research into new inventions in industry. The panel suggests redesigning Ph.D.s to last 4 years rather than the current 3 years, with the first 1 or 2 years focused on entrepreneurial skills and management as well as research. Those "who will not make the very top" could leave at the end of this period well equipped for careers in industry, taking their research knowledge with them.

It also suggests that research investment needs to focus not on particular areas of research but on attracting and keeping the most talented researchers, who are able to work across various disciplines. Speaking at the launch, computing entrepreneur Hermann Hauser said: "We can't always predict what the next big breakthroughs are going to be, but we can be reasonably sure which researchers are going to make them."

A working group from the Royal Society is scheduled to release a report on the same theme on 9 March entitled The Scientific Century: Securing our Future Prosperity.