Nurse Review urged to consider the importance of maths sciences

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The mathematical sciences community has asked Sir Paul Nurse to consider the increasingly important role of mathematical sciences in his review of UK research councils. The Royal Society President (pictured) is conducting a review to explore how the UK's seven research councils, which collectively invest around £3 billion in academic research each year, can support research most effectively.

The Council for Mathematical Sciences has submitted a response (PDF) on behalf of its five member organisations - the Royal Statistical Society, the London Mathematical Society, the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, the Edinburgh Mathematical Society and the Operational Research Society.

In its evidence to the Nurse Review, the CMS urges the government to step up investment in research and innovation from 1.7% to 3% of GDP so as to remain competitive with other industrially advanced nations The submission highlights a ‘major skills gaps in data-led industries’ in the UK, and ‘the need for statistical and data analytical skills in research and in industry’. A large scale national programme is among CMS recommendations, for early career researchers in the mathematical sciences to have direct experience of how business R&D operates.

Acknowledging the importance of big data as the ‘next big front’ for mathematical sciences, the CMS also note that ‘research into Data Science, as opposed to research using it, is not adequately covered by existing structures.’ They recommend that a greater focus on cross-disciplinary research is needed across the research councils. ‘Mathematical sciences are cross-cutting and it is important to recognise and build on this, to advance quantitative research and methods across a wide range of disciplines,’ the CMS states. They propose that research councils should involve mathematical scientists across a wider range of funding panels, so as to avoid the ‘mistaken notion that maths applications can easily be deployed by staff with fairly low-level skills’.

Professor Sir Adrian Smith, who chairs the CMS, said: 'The mathematical sciences are vitally important to all aspects of modern society and are critical to the UK's economic growth. With the continued emergence of new technologies underpinned by the mathematical sciences, this importance is set to increase. It is crucial to ensure the right level of investment in this essential discipline.​'

The RSS submitted its own response to the review, emphasising these concerns and also calling for a ‘shared agenda’ across all of the research councils to strengthen data analysis when applied to other sciences such as biomedical sciences, and economic and social research: ‘The perception in our community is that it remains relatively difficult to obtain funding for […] applications that cross more than one council’. The RSS has also just published a new briefing note on its ‘data manifesto’ for UK investment in research and innovation, steered by the Academic Affairs Advisory Group.

The Nurse Review of Research Councils is due to report this summer.

Photo of Sir Paul Nurse © The Royal Society.

Research Council for Mathematical Sciences

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