In today’s group meeting, one of the topics we discussed was the impeding changes to NERC’s strategic research funding. Peter Grubb wondered whether there had been an increased allocation of funding towards these schemes as opposed to the discovery science “responsive” mode stream since his time on the Terrestrial Ecology funding committee in the 1980s.
NERC does make funding data publically available here: http://gotw.nerc.ac.uk/. But, there doesn’t seem to be a general header for the strategic programmes – they’re all listed individually. Instead, I’ve looked at changes in Responsive Mode funding. In the past, I’ve seen people focus on how rejection rates associated with a particular scheme change over time rather than total expenditure (but see here for stats from New Zealand’s premiere funding stream).
The plot above shows the annual investment into Responsive Mode funding based on the starting dates of awards. Both the annual investment and number of awards have been steadily increasing, aside from a few blips.
Perhaps, key however, is that investment has generally been keeping up with inflation. The black line above the “Total spent” trend is the amount that should be invested to keep up with inflation, calculated as the mean of the consumer price index over the previous year. Ideally, the red line should stay above or very close to the black line.
The take home message is that the UK government does a good job at making sure that funding for basic blue-skies science keeps up with the economy – at least based on my crude numbers. Whether it represents a reasonable proportion of total government spending is obviously another question…