Memorandum submitted by the Central Committee
for University Dental Teachers and Research Workers
1. The Central Committee for University
Dental Teachers and Research Workers (CCUDT&RW) is an autonomous
committee of the British Dental Association. It is concerned with
all matters that affect university dental teachers and research
workers, who are dentally clinically qualified, and with dental
education and research. Clinical academics in dentistry are based
in the university schools of dentistry of which there are nine
in England, one in Wales, two in Scotland and one in Northern
Ireland. In addition, clinical academics are based in the Eastman
Dental Institute in London and Edinburgh Dental Institute, both
of which are concerned with postgraduate education and research.
In addition a small number of dentally qualified academic staff
are employed in universities without dental schools. Dentally
qualified research workers are also employed in research units
and in industry.
2. Research is essential to future developments
in dentistry and underpins dental education. UK dental schools
must continue to strive to maintain their position amongst the
world leaders in all areas of dental research. The UK spends a
much smaller figure per head of population on dental research
than many other leading industrialised countries do. CCUDT&RW
is concerned about the general lack of funding for dental research
in this country.
3. CCUDT&RW welcome the benefits deriving
from the Research Assessment Exercises organised by the HEFCs.
However we believe the value of future assessments using the same
approach will be limited. There were ten institutions in England
in which Unit of Assessment 4 (Clinical Dentistry) was assessed
in the 2001 round. Of these, six gained either a 5 or 5* rating,
the remaining four obtained a 4. In 1996 three gained a 5 or 5*,
four a 4, three 3a and 1 3b. With this overall improvement in
the research rating for dentistry and no extra money being made
available to fund this improvement then the result will be that
there will be no reward for doing well only a penalty for doing
less well. This "punitive" approach is very demoralising
for all of the institutions. The resultant reduction in funding
to weaker schools makes it harder for them to improve thus exacerbating
4. We believe the whole exercise is too
costly in terms of the time and resource spent in preparing individual
submissions and for the panels' activities. Given the heavy teaching
loads in dentistry the very successful outcome of the 2001 RAE
is most commendable.
5. The numbers returned by individual dental
schools varied enormously. Research active staff whose research
profile did not fit that of the school feel undervalued and their
future ability to attract funding may be compromised because of
their lack of inclusion.
6. In addition because of the high clinical
teaching load in dentistry it is inevitable that there will be
research inactive staff. Indeed without these staff to support
teaching activities, it is uncertain that the research active
staff would be as successful in achieving the high ratings.
7. Dental schools must not become teaching
only. There must be an appropriate mix of educational and research
activity within the school so that education is enhanced.
8. The 2001 RAE provides clear evidence
that academic dentistry in the UK compares outstandingly well
with the rest of biomedicine and other university disciplines
so that it clearly and objectively justifies more cash. The Government
can have confidence that this will be well spent, with real advances
in basic and applied knowledge, and real impact on public health.
9. We recognise that there must be ongoing
reviews of research output to reward quality so that the current
funding allocations do not become fossilised.
10. We believe now is the appropriate time
to consider instituting a major change to the way in which the
HEFCs' research funding is organised. We believe there are long
term dangers in research being directed solely by the need to
gain a high rating.
11. We suggest the House of Commons Science
and Technology Committee should consider recommending:
The introduction of a scheme with
a lighter touch.
The introduction of a new funding
formula that is more transparent and recognises the commitments
of all dental clinical academic staff to teaching as well as research.
The introduction of targeted funding
for pump priming research in weaker institutions.