Impacts: People and Skills is the 5th in a series of publications from RCUK which highlight the impact of research and higher education in the UK.It brings together a range of case studies from a variety of disciplines.
David Willetts, Universities and Science Minister, said: “This report by Research Councils UK highlights the critical importance of cutting-edge research in a knowledge economy. It is great that over 60% of Research Council UK Doctoral graduates take their skills into the wider economy, many in the areas we need for growth – life sciences, advanced manufacturing and low carbon technologies. I am therefore delighted that RCUK has taken this initiative and I hope that this publication will encourage our future scientists to continue this tradition.”
A new report – “Absorbing Research: The role of university research in business and market innovation” -has been published by the CIHE (Council for Industry and Higher Education). The report, sponsored by RCUK, draws on 22 case studies and recommends a variety of ways in which RCUK can help to support and promote collaboration between academic researchers and business. There are proposals for incorporating the development of ‘commercial skills’ into the career progression of early career researchers, as well as for using financial incentives to encourage collaboration between business and university researchers. The report sees the development of the impact factor in research funding as important, but recommends that the funding councils should go beyond ‘issuing guidelines about impact’ and proposes the ‘Research Councils should support the experiential learning of different ways of developing different pathways to impact’. From analysis of the case studies and company workshops, the report also draws a list of ‘enabling’ and ‘limiting’ factors. For example, businesses can find the academic research pace slower than the commercial, and the quest for ‘results which are both robust and repeatable’ can ‘sometimes be incompatible with commercial objectives, where an “80%” solution may suffice’. On the other hand, there was an appreciation for the greater objectivity of university researchers, and a belief that ‘leading edge research’ is only to be found in universities. The report, which RCUK considers to be in line with its own support for ‘excellent research that attracts business and industry from around the world’ is available from the CIHE website.
In a wide-ranging report,The Scientific Century: Securing Our Future Prosperity, the Royal Society makes its case for government investment in scientific research and improving education in the sciences.
Warning of the dangers of any crude assessment of research impact, the report nonetheless regards recent clarifications from HEFCE regarding this element of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) as being reassuring. It goes on to warn against the effects of any cuts in funding to academic scientific research, with a reminder how cuts in the mid-1980s led to researchers struggling “to remain at the cutting edge of their disciplines, using old equipment that they could not afford to replace”. Investing in scientific research now, they argue, is vital: “Science and innovation are investments that are essential to short-term recovery and, more importantly, to long-term prosperity and growth.”
Recommendations of the report align strategically with investment in: interdisciplinary research (including a call for a reform of research funding and assessment in relation to this); overseas collaboration; improved skills training (including ‘transferrable skills’) for PhD students in the sciences; and a call to create “strong global challenge research programmes, led by RCUK, to align scientific, commercial and public interests”.
The report can be read in full on the Royal Society website at:http://royalsociety.org/the-scientific-century/