Higher education and funding research

 

Sir, – Our underfunded higher education and research system is once again in the spotlight, with the publication of the QS Rankings showing most Irish universities falling in the league tables. Major criticisms still remain regarding the enforced research priorities established during austerity and a lack of funding for “blue-skies” research since 2008. However, change is happening.

We, the undersigned, all recently received funding under the “game-changing” Irish Research Council Laureate awards.

These are research grants to drive new discoveries and knowledge, drawing on the inexhaustible curiosity that is the hallmark of our vocations. The Department of Education and Skills is to be commended for providing the funding.

The reason the awards are game-changing for Ireland is that they are in alignment with European Research Council schemes, open to eligible researchers from any field, thus promoting the broad-based development of our research system. The narrower approach we have witnessed in the austerity years is not in the long-term interests of a healthy knowledge-based society and economy. A more balanced research environment, where both curiosity-driven and industry focussed research are adequately funded is best practice.

A balanced research environment drives the most creative innovations, discoveries and solutions, attracts and retains world class talent and will increase Ireland’s global reputation for research excellence. Our students and future generations will be both inspired and educated by recognised global leaders, doing state-of-the-art research in Irish institutes, instilling a sense of pride in Ireland’s achievements. To achieve this, we must maintain funding for this innovative scheme.

In Ireland we have substantial additional capacity to sustain and even increase the pool of world class research funded by the laureate scheme.

The Irish Research Council has indicated that a further 31 of our colleagues were judged to have submitted highly-ranked proposals for world-class research under the first laureate call but could not be funded due to budgetary limitations. The Irish Research now has a second laureate call open, for researchers at an advanced stage in their careers. This is very welcome, and similarly critical. But beyond this second call we understand that there is as yet, no long-term commitment from the Government to fund the laureate awards.

In our view, not making these awards a long-term feature of the research landscape, would be a missed opportunity for our higher education and research system, and we strongly encourage the Government to continue such award schemes. – Yours, etc,

Prof EMMA

TEELING, UCD,

Dr KAREN ENGLISH,

Dr ANDREW JACKSON,

Dr CIARA BREATHNACH,

Dr MATTHEW

CAMPBELL,

Dr RIÓNA NÍ FHRIGHIL,

Prof YVONNE BUCKLEY,

Dr STEPHEN POWER,

Dr GEDIMINAS JUSKA,

Dr ALINE VIDOTTO,

Prof CAREL LE ROUX,

Dr ÁLVARO

LLORENTE-BERZAL,

Dr PAUL DOCKREE,

Prof JAN MANSCHOT,

Dr JACOPO BISAGNI,

Dr JESSICA SMYTH,

Dr COLM J RYAN,

Dr SARAH DOYLE,

Dr JEREMY J. PIGGOTT,

Dr TED VAUGHAN,

Prof ANDREI

PARNACHEV,

Dr SHARON O’ROURKE,

Dr FRANCIS LUDLOW,

Dr SAMUEL BRAZYS,

Dr ANDREW MITCHELL,

Prof MARK FLANAGAN,

Dr MARK JONES,

Dr KATARZYNA

GOLJANEK-WHYSALL,

Dr DEBORAH HAYDEN,

Prof KEVIN RYAN.