Neuroscience funding: a joint statement from the British Neuroscience Association and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
14 April 2011
BBSRC and the BNA have met and discussed UK funding for neuroscience and psychology research, and specifically BBSRC's future funding, where the Council currently accounts for around 8-10% of total UK public and third sector research investment in this area.
- BBSRC appreciates that the document entitled: "Changes in BBSRC Grants Procedures and Processes" dated 24th January 2011 regarding neuroscience funding, and the subsequent reporting in the media relating to this document, generated confusion. It was never the intention of BBSRC deliberately to cut neuroscience funding specifically or disproportionately, rather to encourage the neuroscience and psychology community to submit applications that encompass BBSRC strategic priorities.
- BBSRC and BNA agreed that regrettably there has been some misunderstanding of some recent announcements from BBSRC with regard to our strategic priorities in the light of the recent CSR Settlement. Both organisations welcomed the opportunity to make the position clear.
- BBSRC does not have a set budget for neuroscience, and future funding levels will continue to depend on the quality and relevance of applications received. The total BBSRC funding portfolio of neuroscience and psychology over the five years to 2009/10 is as follows:
|Total annual spend on neuroscience and psychology (£M)|
|BBSRC funding for research relevant to neuroscience(1)||28.3||31.8||35.2||39.5||40.4(2)|
1 Includes funding through the following mechanisms: responsive mode, initiatives, fellowships to HEIs and BBSRC institutes and core strategic funding to BBSRC institutes.
2 £40.4M is equivalent to 13.9% of BBSRC’s total research funding expenditure in this year.
- Currently only around 37% of BBSRC's expenditure on neuroscience is aligned to the Council's major strategic priorities as set down in its Strategic Plan (ref 1). BBSRC now wishes a greater proportion of its funding for neuroscience and psychology to be relevant directly to its strategy.
- It is important that the neuroscience and psychology community realises that BBSRC is required to formulate and meet strategic priorities in order to justify and optimise its full grant allocation from Government. It is conceivable that specific strategic priorities may change in any future Strategic Plans of the BBSRC.
- BBSRC and the BNA agree that neuroscience makes an important contribution in all of BBSRC's strategic priority areas and the new emphasis is not to be taken as a shift away from basic Bioscience.
- There are many opportunities for excellent basic neuroscience within the Strategic Plan particularly, but certainly not only, food security (behaviour, animal health and welfare) and the broad field of Basic Bioscience Underpinning Health (BBUH) where the emphasis is on a deep and integrated understanding of normal healthy development over the life-course and into old age.
- BBSRC recognises that it represents one of the few funding agencies within the UK that supports basic neuroscience using invertebrate and vertebrate species.
- Eligible researchers may still apply outside BBSRC's strategic priorities but they must realise that competition for funding will be fierce in that space particularly in the light of a flat cash settlement in the spending review. As such it is not in the community's interest to maintain large numbers of applications for such work.
- As before, BBSRC will only accept applications within its remit.
- BBSRC realises that this is challenging for parts of the neuroscience and psychology community (as well as other communities across its remit) and BBSRC does not deny that the amount of funding this community wins in open competition could shrink from the current £40m pa. However, BBSRC Council and its Advisory Panels will monitor carefully the shift in funding in many areas, not only neuroscience, as a result of BBSRC's policies and new priorities over the spending review period to ensure it is having the desired impact and not inadvertently eroding key areas of neuroscience and psychology.
- BNA and BBSRC have agreed to work together to provide neuroscientists with greater clarity on the opportunities offered within the Council's Strategic Plan, in order to help researchers optimise their opportunities for funding.
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