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Last on

Mon 28 Dec 2009 21:00 BBC Radio 4

Duration:
30 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 28 December 2009

What happens when economists, neuroscientists, biologists, engineers and psychologists spend a week in the same room trying to think of ways to spend a few of million pounds? Trevor Cox lifts the lid on the funding game as he spends a week with some hopeful researchers out to win their share of several million pounds of public money in a unique funding event called The Ideas Factory - or, as he dubs it, The Dragons' Lab.

Each year the UK research councils share out 2.8 billion pounds of taxpayers' money. But how do they decide who should get it? With grants dwindling under new government spending plans, research funding squabbles are getting more fraught.

But the UK research council model for funding science is often intrinsically conservative: if you know what the outcome of research will be, why do you need to spend all that money on it? Furthermore, grants are awarded by the cognoscenti to the cognoscenti, and there is often little space for fresh perspectives or interdisciplinary overlap. There is a also a gap in the public's awareness of how these important decisions are taken on its behalf.

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