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Research: Finance

Volume 503: debated on Thursday 7 January 2010

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent discussions he has had with the (a) Higher Education Funding Council for England and (b) Research Councils UK on the effect on fundamental scientific research of the proposed impact plans; and if he will make a statement. (308323)

[holding answer 6 January 2010]: My colleagues, officials and I discuss a range of issues with HEFCE and the Research Councils regularly.

Both HEFCE and the Research Councils recognise the breadth of ways in which impact is delivered and the long time horizons often required. Both understand impact broadly to include, for example, benefits to the economy, society, public policy, and quality of life.

The UK has a world-class research base of which we can be rightly proud: second only to the US across a broad range of disciplines and the most productive research base in the G8. Government funding for the research base has doubled in real terms since 1997 and it is right that we recognise the impact of excellent research and remove barriers to harvesting the benefits it delivers to the nation.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Research Councils undertake complementary work to pursue that objective. HEFCE recently consulted on proposals for the Research Excellence Framework (REF), and Research Councils have recently introduced impact statements to grant application forms.

The REF will recognise and reward university departments with a track record of delivering impacts from excellent research in the past. Research Council impact statements encourage researchers to consider the potential impact of their work when applying for grants.

Greater emphasis on impact poses no threat to fundamental research. The primary criterion of both peer review and retrospective research assessment remains research excellence.