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Research councils prepare for forensic science influx

Research councils are expecting an increase in forensic science grant applications but have no plans to set aside additional, targeted funding for the field.

The projected increase follows the closure of the Forensic Science Service in March.

In an interview with Research Fortnight Today, Alasdair Rose, leader of the physical sciences division of Research Councils UK’s Global Uncertainties programme, said that while the councils want to offer more support for researchers in the “fragmented field” to organise themselves, there are no plans to set aside a specific funding pot for the field or to make it a strategic priority.

Instead, the councils are working on a proposal to establish a “special interest group” on forensic science with the Technology Strategy Board.

The group would bring together academic and industry researchers to create “a more cohesive community”, says Rose. Such networking, he argues, will make it easier for the researchers to communicate their needs to the funders.

In addition, RCUK has invited the Forensic Science Society, a professional body of forensic scientists, to collect nominations of researchers to evaluate forensic science proposals.

However, Bernard Silverman, chief scientific adviser to the Home Office, has previously said he is disappointed that the research councils have failed to take up his recommendation to make forensic science a strategic priority.

Rose argues that, despite this decision, forensic science could potentially see an overall boost in funding from the research councils.

“It depends on the quality of the forensic-science proposals submitted,” he says. “We are expecting that the universities will seek funding from the research councils in the future … and we will fund the best of them in competition with [applications in] other areas of physical sciences.”

A report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee in July last year said that the government’s decision to close the FSS was hasty, and had failed to consider the impact on forensic science research and development in the UK.