Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Funding should recognize outcome, not income


I was disappointed to read in your Editorial “Brown's budget briefing” (Nature 440, 581; 2006), discussing a future replacement for the UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), that you consider “external research income” as “a reasonable basis for departmental funding”.

I hope it is still true to say that no major scientific prizes or seats at the high tables of science have been awarded on the basis of an individual's research income. Although external research income has been a significant — some might say disproportionate — factor in previous RAEs, it should not become a substitute for scientific excellence.

For scientists, the only significant research outcome is the science and, primarily, its communication through publication. Scientists are all too aware of instances of poor accountability in the spending of highly competitive research grants — the result of grant-giving bodies supporting the idea and not the individual.

A scientific meritocracy based upon success in gaining research funding is wholly reversible. But there are no instances of scientists whose success has been measured by their output, on the other hand, being asked to leave their seats at science's high table, their Nobel prizes in envelopes marked “Return to sender”.

In other words, the measure of scientific success is scientific output — the elucidation of new knowledge and its dissemination through publication — and not science income.

Awarding science funding primarily upon the basis of the latter will only ensure a decline in the former.

Author information



Additional information

Contributions to Correspondence may be submitted to They should be no longer than 500 words, and ideally shorter. They should be signed by no more than three authors; preferably by one. Published contributions are edited.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Exley, C. Funding should recognize outcome, not income. Nature 440, 1112 (2006).

Download citation


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing