Friday, 4 March 2011

Dream-on Fellowships

The EPSRC has established a new fellowship scheme: Dream Fellowships, to support innovative researchers across their remit. As they say:
The prestigious Dream Fellowship award enables talented researchers to take time out from their every day activities, to give them the freedom to gain new knowledge of novel creative problem solving techniques, explore new radical ideas and develop new ambitious research directions that enable discovery.

These awards fit the developing EPSRC strategy in two ways: funding people (leaders) rather than projects, and having innovative reviewing mechanisms. Thus
EPSRC programme teams identify a list of potential candidates. This list is validated using independent assessors. Candidates on the validated list are invited to apply to EPSRC for a Dream Fellowship by filling in a short application form. These applicants are interviewed by an independent selection panel which includes international representation and the relevant Head of Programme.
Only a select few awards – 2 or 3 each programme - will be made to the top calibre candidates.

I know two of the mathematicians approached. Both are great people and great researchers, though it is likely that they were identified by the size of their grant holdings rather than their international reputations (as there are many others in the community who would have fitted the latter definition) and both have records of cross-disciplinary research (though this is only hinted at in the announcement through the word impact).

But though 2 or 3 awards are expected from each programme, I gather (though not confirmed yet) that none will be awarded in mathematics. Is this a reflection of the health of mathematics in the country or does this mean that even the most EPSRC-engaged mathematicians struggle to meet the short-term impact (unspoken) criteria for support?

I leave that delicate question as an exercise for the reader. Use your....

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