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Metrics aren’t mature enough to drive research spending

The government's apparent desire for faster, cheaper, more frequent research assessment risks creating perverse outcomes, says Simon Kerridge.

As far as research goes, the outcome of the comprehensive spending review is better than expected. Even so, while real-terms protection from a baseline of £4.7 billion a year is to be welcomed, as GDP goes up, R&D investment as a proportion of that goes down.

At 0.49 per cent of GDP, UK spending on R&D is already below the OECD average of 0.67 per cent. So while the rhetoric is of greater investment in science—“batteries will be included”, as science minster Jo Johnson tweeted after the announcement—it remains to be seen whether this investment is enough to meet the country’s ambition. Are the batteries fully charged?

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