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How to design a research funder

A worldwide survey of funders reveals some common principles for supporting research, say Catriona Manville and Catie Lichten.

The targets of public research funders are in constant motion. Emerging challenges such as climate change and health inequalities, for example, are leading to an increased emphasis on the impact of research beyond academia. At the same time, funders must adapt to changing expectations about what research can and should deliver, financial austerity, and developments in the topics and methods of research.

In 2015, Paul Nurse, then president of the Royal Society, led a government review into how the UK research councils can support research most effectively. These seven discipline-specific bodies, whose budgets total roughly £2.6 billion per year, are the main channel through which the UK government distributes competitive R&D funding.

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