Ireland should fund best research

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The Irish government aims to develop our 'smart economy' by prioritizing funding for research that will lead to “innovation” (Nature 467, 895; 2010). This will be achieved through another committee, the fourth in as many years (see http://go.nature.com/wepy1w).

The composition of this committee suggests that the choice of areas to be funded will probably be driven by commercial demands. That is unlikely to create new jobs, as the government claims.

Ireland should instead concentrate funding on research — any research — that is of consistently high quality (based on non-exchequer funding and prestigious publications) and dump the rest. Such a move would also attract high-quality researchers into the country.

More important than any ill-defined concept of innovation, it is crucial that high-calibre but inexperienced researchers get to work on problems with commercial potential, supported by consultants and professionals from industry. Top-class researchers need to be socialized, which is next to impossible in an academic setting.

The cuts to science in Ireland, combined with the government's handling of the remainder, risk turning the clock back 30 years.

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Dyke, G. Ireland should fund best research. Nature 468, 173 (2010) doi:10.1038/468173d

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