Archive for October, 2010

Do scientific projects get funded because the authors make some spurious link with climate change?

October 29, 2010

I was having a discussion in the comments on this blog recently about science funding. Amongst other things, a theory cropped up that to get funded research proposals must include some link, however desperate, with climate change. I thought it was quite an interesting point so thought I’d discuss it a bit more here.

I think this idea came about because there are quite often media stories about climate change that involve quirky results. For example, a colleague of mine recently got covered in the FT about changes in the Caspian Sea and caviar prices. Of course, the project had nothing to do with caviar – that was just the way the journalist spun it to get people reading.

My (albeit limited) experience of writing project proposals is that successful ones need to be focused on a specific point with achievable but significant goals. A quick ramble that its related to climate change wont get you funded. If anything it’ll annoy the reviewers and you’ll get thrown straight on the reject pile (as happens to more than 80% of proposals anyway).

Ok, so the proportion of funds that go to the different research councils and the priority areas within those council’s remit does determine the overall proportion of the fields get funded and climate research has done quite well. But within this regime, proposals are still judged on the quality of the science, not how well they follow the party line.

All the same, if you fancy playing climate change buzzword bingo, there’s a website here where you can search through all the grants that the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) award with little descriptions of the project. Happy hunting!