Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)


  BBSRC currently offers three Fellowship Schemes to enable scientists to devote their time to independent research and scholarship:

    —  BBSRC David Phillips Fellowships: for scientists who have demonstrated high potential during their research training and initial years of postdoctoral research;

    —  BBSRC Research Development Fellowships: for younger members of university teaching staff who wish to devote themselves to full-time research;

    —  BBSRC Professorial Fellowships: a small number of prestigious fellowships for outstanding scientists at the height of their research career.

  (a)  an analysis of the cost efficiency of the programmes, indicating whether your accounts isolate administrative costs associated with these schemes

  Current position on Fellowship awards is set out below:
SchemeNo of Current
Value (£K)Annual
Expenditure (£K pa)
David Phillips329,101 1,796
Research Development8 747248
*Advanced103,371 724
Professorial62,791 516
TOTAL5616,010 3,284

  *Following a Council review in 1999 of BBSRC's Fellowship schemes the Advanced Fellowship Scheme was discontinued. Existing awards will run to completion with the last Advanced Fellowship ending in January 2005.

  Administrative costs are not easily obtained. They are not isolated within the accounts system and the administration of the schemes are split between two sections of the BBSRC Office with input from other sections at various levels. These figures could only be established at disproportionate cost.

  It is worth noting, however, that BBSRC's administration costs at £7 million p.a. represent 3 per cent of BBSRC's net science budget, and that BBSRC is one of the most efficient Research Councils.

  A key performance indicator produced by BBSRC is the mean annual cost of processing a project research grant application. This currently stands at £380 per annum, the annual cost of administering a research grant when awarded being £56 per annum. The corresponding cost of administering a fellowship is not recorded, but will be greater due to the additional costs of interviewing candidates and monitoring progress.

  (b)  a comparison of the characteristics of your schemes, for example career breaks and mentoring

  For purposes of comparison, the various features of the three BBSRC fellowship schemes are set out below:

(i)   BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship

  Up to 10 David Phillips Fellowships are available each year tenable at UK universities and BBSRC sponsored institutes.

  Applicants must be postdoctoral scientists engaged in non-permanent research posts with no more than five and a half years active postdoctoral research experience at 1 October in the year in which they submit an application.

  Applications are also considered from candidates who meet the above criterion but who are also:

    —  currently employed in industry. Proposals are handled with maximum flexibility, and arrangements for joint funding by the current employer and the Council are possible;

    —  temporarily residing overseas who intend to use the fellowship as a means of re-establishing themselves in this country;

    —  wishing to use a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship to re-establish themselves after a career break or other period of absence from active research;

    —  in non-permanent posts seeking a flexible working arrangement (eg part-time). With such awards, the time devoted to the research must be equivalent to at least 50 per cent of a normal full-time working week. The value of an award under flexible working arrangements would be on a pro rata basis.

  BBSRC David Phillips Fellowships are normally awarded for a period of up to five years, subject to satisfactory progress.

  The fellow's starting salary will be awarded at spine point 13 of the academic RAII pay scale (currently £26,491). The funds awarded include provision for future salary increases, and an annual revaluation based on Government's revaluation indices.

  BBSRC David Phillips Fellowships provide a support grant, up to a maximum value of £200,000 over the five-year period of the fellowship, to defray the costs of the research that is to be undertaken including technical support, equipment, consumables and travel.

  In addition to the support grant, BBSRC David Phillips Fellows are eligible to apply, through their employing institution, for research grants from BBSRC or other grant-awarding organisations.

  David Phillips Fellows may be supervisors on BBSRC studentships. However, in doing so the fellow must be in a position to provide supervision of the student for the full duration of the award.

  David Phillips Fellows may undertake up to an average of six hours' teaching per week (inclusive of all preparatory work and related examination duties) during university terms, provided this does not hinder the progress of the fellowship research programme. Apart from this, and normal holidays, fellows must devote the whole of their usual working time to research. No other work may be undertaken during normal working hours, including consultancy and commercial work.

  David Phillips Fellows are required to attend a half-day induction course arranged by BBSRC prior to, or at the start of, the fellowship.

  Special arrangements apply if a BBSRC Fellow wishes to continue the award during pregnancy, and sympathetic consideration is given to the wishes of the Fellow. In addition Fellows may be take up to four weeks paid paternity leave.

  Other considerations include:

    —  costs of caring;

    —  removal expenses;

    —  holidays;

    —  sick leave;

    —  medical insurance for overseas travel.

  Terms of Fellowship Agreement.

  When submitting an application for a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship, both the applicant and the proposed host institution are required to give undertakings that they are prepared to abide by the provisions of a Terms of Fellowship agreement, in addition to the regulations, terms and conditions of the scheme.

  BBSRC's commitments to holders of David Phillips Fellowships, the obligations of fellows, and the Council's expectations of the institutions which undertake to employ them during the tenure of the fellowship, are defined in the Terms of Fellowship agreement a copy of which is available on the BBSRC Website. The agreement sets out the respective responsibilities of the Council, its fellows and their institutions, and is intended to clarify the relationships between them. It is based on the premise that in scientific matters a BBSRC David Phillips Fellow will be treated by the institution in the same way as its established academic staff.

  Full details are at Annex 1.

Mentoring Arrangements

  BBSRC David Phillip's Fellows are assigned to a BBSRC mentor—a designated member of the Council's Committee on Studentships and Fellowships—who will:

    (i)  provide an individual point of contact with the Committee, and an additional source of general professional and personal guidance outside the Fellow's host institution; and

    (ii)  keep a watching brief on the Fellow's research programme and report to the CSF to inform its monitoring of his or her progress (but not participate in forming or communicating any judgements, recommendations or decisions relating to the Fellow made as part of the Committee's formal assessment and feedback process.

(ii)   BBSRC Research Development Fellowships

  Up to six Research Development Fellowships are available each year tenable at UK universities.

  Applicants must be full-time established members of the academic staff of a UK university who have worked for a minimum of five years as at 1 October in the year in which they submit an application in their current or a similar post. Previous UK and overseas appointments will be taken into account, but applicants must have held an eligible appointment at their current UK institution for a period of at least one year at 1 October in the year in which they submit an application.

  BBSRC Research Development Fellowships are normally awarded for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress. In exceptional circumstances, they may be extended for a period of up to two further years.

  For the duration of the fellowship, BBSRC provides a grant of £30,000 per annum to the university which employs the fellow. Additionally the cash limited funds will include an annual revaluation on Government revaluation indices.

  No research support grant is provided.

  During the period of the fellowship, Research Development Fellows are expected to be relieved by their Department of all significant teaching and administrative duties. They may undertake up to three hours teaching and/or administration a week, provided that this does not hinder progress on research work. Apart from this and standard holidays, they are expected to devote their whole time to research, and no other work may be undertaken within normal working hours including consultancy and commercial work.

(iii)   BBSRC Professorial Fellowships

  Up to two Professorial Fellowships are available each year tenable at UK universities.

  Applicants must have an established/permanent appointment in a UK university of industrial research organisation and must already be recognised as outstanding scientists at the international level.

  BBSRC Professorial Fellowships are awarded for periods of up to five years, subject to satisfactory progress.

  The fellow's salary is determined by the host institution. For the duration of the fellowship BBSRC will provide to the university which employs the fellow a grant of £55,000 per annum as a contribution towards the fellow's total salary costs. Additionally, the cash limited funds awarded will include an annual revaluation based on Government revaluation indices.

  As part of the application for a Professorial Fellowship, the applicant may also apply for a grant, up to a maximum of £200,000 over the five-year period of the fellowship, to meet the costs of their research programme, including technical support, equipment, consumables and travel.

  BBSRC Professorial Fellows are expected to be exempted by their institutions from significant teaching and related major administrative, consultancy and commercial commitments.

  Arrangements for maternity and paternity leave, costs of caring, removal expenses, holidays, sick leave and medical insurance for overseas travel parallel those of the David Phillips scheme.

(iv)   General

  All BBSRC Fellows are required to submit annual reports on the progress of their research under the fellowships.

  Progress reports are assessed by the Committee on Studentships and Fellowships and feedback given.

  At the mid-point of their fellowship, David Phillips Fellows are required to personally present their work to members of CSF. They are questioned about their work and progress, and oral feedback given at the time, followed by written confirmation of the Committee's assessment.

  All BBSRC Fellows are required to attend a biennial BBSRC Fellows Conference. It provides fellows with the opportunity of meeting other BBSRC Fellows as well as members of CSF, other members of BBSRC's Boards and Committees and senior members of BBSRC.

    (c)  an explanation of how schemes deal with applications for interdisciplinary research

  Applications for BBSRC fellowships are considered by BBSRC's Committee on Studentships and Fellowships. Membership of the Committee is drawn from BBSRC's academic and industrial community against guidelines of expertise as set out in Annex 2. In its assessment of fellowship applications, the first requirement is that the quality of the applicant is of a suitably high level expected for a BBSRC fellowship. As with research grant applications, fellowship proposals are sent to appropriate external referees for an assessment of the science programme.


Royal Society Industry Fellowships

  BBSRC is a partner in the Royal Society Industry Fellowships Scheme. This scheme, aimed at enhancing communications between industry, universities or equivalent and BBSRC-sponsored institutes in the UK, provides opportunities for post-doctoral employees in either sector to spend a period in the other sector:

    —  academic scientist or engineers would work in an industrial environment and undertake a project;

    —  industrial scientists or engineers would undertake research or course development at a university.

Daphne Jackson Memorial Fellowships

  These are two-year awards, designed to facilitate the return to research of able engineers and scientists who have taken a break for family or other reasons. The Fellowship Trust acts as a link, selecting fellows and matching them with universities and research institutes where they can update their skills and carry out a research or development project.

June 2002

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