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The UK’s research base is a vital national asset and critical to long-term economic growth. Despite enormous pressure on public spending, the funding for science and research programmes has been protected in cash terms at £4.6 billion for each year of the spending review within a ring-fence. Maintaining a substantial flow of new researchers was indentified as a priority in the allocations to the research councils, Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the national academies.
The research councils UK strategic vision includes the promotion of high level skills and states that they will consolidate and focus support for people giving greater attention to establishing the careers of the best early career researchers. The financial allocations to the research councils for the comprehensive spending review period 2011 to 2015 will ensure that the research councils maintain significant support for early career and postdoctoral researchers.
BIS funds a number of early and mid-career fellowship programmes run by the three national academies: these enable the brightest and best academics to work full-time on research and were given priority when negotiating funding allocations. BIS funding for these programmes increases in each year of the current spending review period.
The main funders of research in the UK are all signatories to The Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers which has the overall aim of increasing the attractiveness and sustainability of research careers in the UK and improving the quantity, quality and impact of research for the benefit of UK society and the economy.
A significant number of early career and postdoctoral researchers are, of course, employed directly by individual universities and it is up to them to decide on the levels of financial support and other available assistance provided.