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UK research reform: poor timing

Nature volume 539, page 357 (17 November 2016) | Download Citation

Science and universities in the United Kingdom surely do not need a major and controversial restructuring during the approach to Brexit (see Nature 538, 5; 2016). The government's proposed Higher Education and Research Bill stands to erode university autonomy, downgrade individual research councils and concentrate executive authority over science into a single 'supremo'.

It is plainly desirable for the research councils to collaborate more smoothly. And ministers need better advice on apportioning funding between councils and on such matters as balancing small-scale, 'responsive mode' grants against large strategic initiatives. However, these inadequacies can be remedied without the wholesale reorganization envisaged in the bill. From my perspective as Astronomer Royal and former Royal Society president, the research councils work better than most government agencies and need only fine-tuning.

A good start would be to ensure that there is a senior independent voice in Whitehall by reviving the post of Director-General of Research Councils, supported by a strong advisory board.

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  1. Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK.

    • Martin Rees


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Correspondence to Martin Rees.

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