EPSRC Funding Crisis: Mathematical Sciences

Good news from EPSRC

On 28 March 2012, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Council announced its decisions on whether to "increase", "maintain", or "reduce" its total funding of each of 12 subareas of the mathematical sciences. EPSRC decided to maintain funding for 10 areas, to increase funding of statistics and applied probability, and to reduce funding of mathematical physics. It will be important to make sure that EPSRC continues to fund the best mathematical physics, a subject where the UK is among the world leaders. Nonetheless, EPSRC's decision is closer than I expected to the goal of funding the best research across all subjects.

That decision refers to all types of research funding, including grants (for a specific research project) as well as fellowships. On fellowships, EPSRC has recovered from its highly restrictive policy of July 2011, when fellowships were only available in one of the 12 subareas of the mathematical sciences. Namely, in May 2012, EPSRC announced that fellowships would be available at all levels (Postdoctoral, Early Career, and Established) for mathematical scientists who do "Intradisciplinary Research". That means any research which brings together techniques from different areas of mathematics. The best mathematical research does exactly that, and so I strongly advise mathematicians in the UK (or mathematicians interested in coming to the UK) to apply for these fellowships.

A statement on the EPSRC "Shaping Capability" announcement of July 2011 and how it affects the mathematical sciences is below.

In July 2011, EPSRC decided that it would not accept applications for research fellowships in any area of the mathematical sciences except statistics and applied probability, until further notice. This will force many of the UK's best PhD students to leave the country to get their first academic job, and will prevent us from attracting the best foreign postdoctoral researchers. Postdoctoral fellowships are an essential part of the pipeline that allows some PhDs to become leading scientists. If EPSRC continues this policy, British mathematics will face mediocrity in a decade.

UK mathematics is under-resourced already. In 2009/10, EPSRC slashed its funding of research grants in the mathematical sciences (the other main type of research funding besides fellowships) to £12 million, from £24.2 million only two years before. The UK's competitors would find that decision hard to understand. The US is increasing its research grants in the mathematical sciences despite the recession, because of the prospect of long-term growth founded on research. The UK's small investment in mathematics must be used wisely.

This page is intended as a source of information about the EPSRC funding crisis for the mathematical sciences community. It includes briefing material that can be used in lobbying, letters written to MPs, press releases, press coverage and links to other parallel campaigns.

If you have anything you'd like to be included on this page - additional press, lobbying material etc. - then please send it to (b.totaro AT dpmms.cam.ac.uk). You can also leave a comment on my blog.


Press Coverage - most recent first

Parliamentary Hearings

Briefing Material


Some Relevant Blogs

Other Campaigns