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Letter: Starved research

Sir: David Harrison ("Paying for the new pioneers", 17 April) draws attention to the research funding crisis faced by UK universities. However, his suggested solution (even greater selectivity) depends on a number of implausible assumptions:

1) that departmental (and in effect, institutional) "research ratings" have sufficient validity to justify funding decisions;

2) that the (rated) past performance of academics is a valid guide for prediction;

3) that data of poor validity relating to the performance of other academics who happened in the past to have been in their departments or institutions, provide a valid basis for predicting the future discoveries of other academics.

The nation will not be well served by funding bodies that behave like this. The problem is the underfunding of the system as a whole. This is the problem that must be addressed in the coming general election.

P K Burgess

Department. of Psychology

Dundee University