The Research Councils UK Academic Fellowships scheme, launched in 2004 to provide
attractive and stable research career paths for promising researchers, has provided
a boost to interdisciplinary research and outreach according to a report reviewing
the two years of the programme. The Fellowships are designed to reward institutions
with innovative research strategies and as a result almost 40 per cent of Academic
Fellowships awarded span the remits of at least two Research Councils.
The report, the result of a study of data from HEIs awarded Fellowships, was
published by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Research Careers
and Diversity Unit. It provides a breakdown of the first two years of the scheme,
covering almost £100 million of funding from RCUK, and reveals that of the 800 fellowships
awarded to HEIs across the UK over 300 are interdisciplinary.
Additionally, all Academic Fellowship post holders are required to participate
in outreach to schools and engage with the public. Although this aspect of the scheme
is developing early signs suggest that the requirement is ensuring that the next
generation of UK research leaders are developing the skills to communicate, engage
with and enthuse a wide audience about their research.
The report has also shown that the scheme has been hugely popular with both institutions
and academics with 800 fellows now being supported in 79 Higher Education Institutions
(HEIs). The model has proved so successful that a number of universities have established
their own schemes to nurture the next generation of research leaders.
Professor Julia Goodfellow, speaking on behalf of RCUK, commented: "If imitation
is the sincerest form of flattery then the Academic Fellowships scheme has been
a huge success. Not only has it funded almost 800 new fellows in institutions right
across the UK, promoted innovative, interdisciplinary research and community outreach
but the scheme has inspired the creation of similar programmes by individual universities.
In order for the UK to maintain its world-leading position in research it is crucial
that we retain future research leaders by creating attractive and stable career
paths. The Academic Fellowship scheme is one of the most successful ways we have
found to do this."
The report provides a breakdown of the Academic Fellowships scheme by discipline,
region and the background of fellows.
You can download a copy of the report