U.K. Neuroscientists Complain Funding Cut Penalizes Them for Success

LONDON—At a briefing here today, the British Neuroscience Association (BNA) warned that a planned 20% cut in funding for neuroscience by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) will drive an estimated 100 researchers in the field from the United Kingdom and weaken the nation in a scientific discipline in which it has traditionally excelled. In a letter addressed to Tom Blundell, chair of the council of the BBSRC, which more than 100 neuroscientists put their name to, BNA protested the funding cut and called for its reconsideration.

In January, BBSRC revealed its plans to prioritize particular research disciplines that it believes will help address major challenges to future society. BBSRC’s favored themes include: food security, bioenergy and industrial biotechnology and basic bioscience underpinning health and wellbeing. The Council said that meant that neuroscience, which currently accounts for 13% of grant funding (amounting to £150 million), will receive less funding. BBSRC’s head Douglas Kell recently defended the cut in a blog post.

BNA says that BBSRC’s reprioritization smacks of a desperate measure to balance the books, and that the field of neuroscience is being penalized for being successful. British neuroscientists contend that they have a great track record, helping to explain brain illnesses such as motor neuron, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s diseases, and develop many important drugs such as Fluoxetine, the widely used antidepressant known as Prozac. Eli Lilly, a U.S.-based pharmaceutical company, found that neuroscience research in the south of England was the most cited globally.

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