Efficiency matters: Research funds divided by three

Research improves our lives: There’s even a Nobel prize demonstrating that it is good for governments to sponsor research, so long as it has no immediate commercial pay off.

I just looked at a grant for a Post-doctoral fellow – the people responsible for most of the hard laboratory work, paper writing, and many if not all the bright ideas in science. Salary: £28,000… OK but hardly a wonderful reward as a first job for over 8 years of education. Not much security either – this is a one year contract.

But how much does the university want to host this person for one year? Perhaps nothing – anticipating the research credit. Think again: the “full economic cost” – the Bill to the tax payer for paying the Post-doc their 28k salary over the year… £104,500.
Yes: 300% overheads. Some of it is fair: about 5k in software licenses, heating, superannuation. The other £71,000… Well, all we know is it is not going to this post-doc to do their research.

Viewed positively, this means that the country could triple its research output at no cost.Realistically…. well, you tell me.


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