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Shifting sands

A year into her role, UKRI chief Ottoline Leyser faces fresh challenges

When Ottoline Leyser took the helm at UK Research and Innovation last June, the government was talking up the importance of R&D to post-Covid recovery, even as it was brushing aside scientists’ concerns over easing pandemic restrictions. One year and a deadly second wave later, there is a distinct sense of déjà vu. But UKRI also faces a fresh set of challenges.

Speaking to Research Fortnight this week, Leyser talks positively about UKRI’s swift deployment of pandemic-response funding, especially its role in bringing different scientific disciplines together. She also acknowledges the funder’s “mistake” in not prioritising the collection of information on equality, diversity and inclusion in its early rapid-response calls, and promises that lessons such as this will be taken forward as UKRI overhauls its grants system.

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