Imprimir Republish

UK Research and Innovation

A chief for British research super-agency

Léo Ramos Chaves Immunologist Mark Walport will head UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), currently being formedLéo Ramos Chaves

The British government has chosen immunologist Mark Walport, currently Chief Scientific Advisor of the United Kingdom, to head UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the new science and technology funding agency with an annual budget of £6 billion, beginning in 2018. The “super-agency,” which is currently being formed, was proposed two years ago by biochemist Paul Nurse, 2001 winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine and president of the Royal Society from 2010 to 2015. Its mission is to centralize the activities of nine research support institutions, including the seven Research Councils UK (RCUK). The British research funding system “operates extremely well. But the system at the moment doesn’t provide a single voice,” Walport told the journal Nature. The creation of UKRI requires approval by the UK Parliament. The choice of Walport was met with approval by much of the British scientific community, but it also drew some criticism. Astronomer Martin Rees, past president of the Royal Society, said that as scientific adviser, Walport was a strong proponent of “a more monolithic structure” for science funding. According to an editorial in Nature, in addition to concerns about consolidation of the research councils, there is fear of government interference at agencies currently enjoying autonomy. “I’ve never been a proponent of something monolithic,” Walport said, pointing out that present-day agencies will not lose their autonomy. “The idea is that, working together, the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts.” As adviser, Walport has visited São Paulo twice, in May 2014 and April 2016, participating in a FAPESP event on the latter occasion.