Archive for EPSCR

Fellowships in Stat only: good news?!

Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , , , on October 3, 2011 by xi'an

As reported in Nature newsblog, the UK funding body, EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), “has scrapped fellowships in all but two areas of mathematical sciences, namely statistics and applied probability”. This decision may sound like a bonanza for statisticians and applied probabilists, however, when thinking about it a bit more widely, it is close to a disaster. Choosing to fund fellowships only in a narrow subset of the field is indeed unfair, unwise, and inefficient. Unfair because the topics were chosen w/o consultation with mathematicians. It could have been numerical analysis or cryptography instead. In which case it would have impacted statisticians and applied probabilists as well. Thus, top UK statisticians like Peter Donnelly and Peter Green rightly signed a protest letter along colleagues from other mathematical fields. (Maybe the RSS has likewise reacted. I have not seen it.) Unwise, because, as noted in the letter sent a week ago by twenty-five top UK mathematicians to their Prime Minister, cutting funds in most of mathematics will mean that most UK PhD students will leave the UK to get fellowships abroad. With a fair chance of never returning. (Maybe a bonanza for France? Not really, either, as the funding has not increased here and the current French PhDs need to be funded as well. Even though they most often get hired within a few months of their defense. Or leave for a postdoc abroad…) Inefficient, because the decision is taken without prior notice and cannot expect to impact the area of research of future PhD’s. Nor does it bring a solution for the future of current PhD’s in Not!{statistics and applied probability}