Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Further Replies from David Willetts

David Willetts the Minister for Science and Universities has replied to my last letter (below). As you can see he has failed to address any of the issues I raised in my letters to him. He instead he claims that he cannot oversee EPSRC policies as that would contravene the 'Haldane Principle'. However, it would seem that he is quite happy to contravene the Haldane Principle when it suits him, with the Graphene announcement earlier in the month. It is quite clear that David Willetts is fiddling while Rome burns and his government should be ashamed of the damage that will occur to UK physical science research on their watch if EPSRC are left unchecked.

The first letter is Willetts' reply to my letter to him and the second letter is a reply via my MP who also wrote to him on these issues.


Monday, 6 February 2012

EPSRC's Graphene Announcement

Today I have written to David Delpy, Chief executive of the EPSRC about the announcement of £38M of tax payer's money being used to create a 'graphene institute'. The letter deals with the EPSRC's statement than graphene is "less than an atom thick" and about the lack of transparency in the awarding of the £38M. If you feel the same way then I would urge you to write to Delpy too expressing your concern.

The letter is given below:

Feb 6th 2012

Prof. David Delpy, FRS, FREng, FMedSci,
Chief Executive, EPSRC,
Polaris House,
North Star Avenue,
Swindon, SN2 1ET

Dear Prof. Delpy,

I was shocked to read the EPSRC press release of 2nd Feb 2012 about graphene, which was blatantly wrong. In it you stated that graphene is “200 times stronger than steel and less than an atom thick”. This, as any GCSE science student knows, is impossible. Another serious error was the picture associate with the press release, which is clearly the structure of a metal oxide and not graphene. At a time when you claim that EPSRC has the “expertise required” to decide what research areas are or are not important, this highlights that EPSRC does not even grasp the most basic of scientific concepts, and is certainly not in a position to judge the value of cutting edge research. I am sure you can appreciate that this does nothing to inspire the confidence of the scientific community in your ability to “shape capability” and I call on you to abandon the whole exercise.
I am also concerned that £38M of tax payer’s money has been assigned to a single institute (and in effect to a single research group) without an open call for proposals and without peer review of the science which is being proposed. This lack of transparency is completely contrary to the assurances you gave the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee on peer review being the primary decider when it comes to allocating research funds. At a time when grants for £10,000’s are being rejected after scrupulous peer review it is perverse that £38M can be nodded through without any expert opinion being sought on the quality of the science that money will support. This is a sure fire way to waste £38m and once again highlights the personal prejudices and lack of scientific understanding of key EPSRC staff.
Yours sincerely,
Paul Clarke