Go back

Researchers to have their say in EPSRC review

Researchers will be consulted as part of a review of how the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council gathers and uses advice.

According to plans published on 27 March, the review panel will issue a call for evidence from EPSRC-funded researchers, advisers and council members.

The review will be led by Suzanne Fortier, former chief executive of Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. It was announced by EPSRC chairman Paul Golby partly in response to the criticisms directed at the council in 2012 over its ‘Shaping Capability’ strategy.

Philip Moriarty, a professor of physics at the University of Nottingham said he is particularly interested in Fortier’s group finding out about the influence that EPSRC staff have on the council’s strategic advisory teams, which are mainly made up of researchers.

“I know for a fact that many people on the strategic advisory teams were deeply uncomfortable with the loss of project studentships and that advice was hidden and ignored,” he said.

As well as speaking to researchers, Fortier will interview EPSRC executives and staff. Documents and data will also come under the scrutiny of the panel.

Writing on the EPSRC website, Fortier outlined what the independent panel will review. This includes the nature of the advice given to the EPSRC, the structures in place to obtain strategic advice, the effectiveness and value of the advice provided, transparency of the advisory processes and the credibility of sources consulted.

Fortier is joined on the panel by Richard Brook, president of the Association of Independent Research and Technology Organisations; David Wallace, former president of the Institute of Physics; and Helen Atkinson, the vice-president of the Royal Academy of Engineering and head of the University of Leicester’s Department of Engineering.

Moriarty said that he and other campaigners had been hoping for a panel with more of an outside perspective. “I’d have much preferred to see this with three international people and one national one,” he told Research Fortnight.

The report will be presented to the EPSRC council in July and published online.

Fortier said: “My fellow panel members and I are committed to making the review as transparent as possible.”