Science and Technology Committee

No. 3 - Session 2002-2003

18 November 2002

Short-term research contracts in science and engineering

The Science and Technology Committee publishes its Eighth Report of Session 2001-02, Short-term research contracts in science and engineering (HC 1046), at 0001 hours on Wednesday 20 November 2002. 

Over 40,000 researchers in Britain's universities are employed on short-term contracts, some as short as one month.  In science and technology around half of all researchers are on short-term contracts.  The Committee believes that this is too many and that it is having an adverse effect on the lives of researchers and the sustainability of the science base.

Through poor management and planning universities have failed their research workforce and the UK's science base. 

The Research Councils, from whom much of the project funding is derived,  have failed to take responsibility for the researchers they fund.

Successive Governments have failed to recognise that allocating its research funding in short term grants creates instability in the research base. Research funding in the UK needs to be balanced, regardless of the level of expenditure.

The Roberts Review's proposals are disappointing.  It fails to appreciate the demoralisation of contract researchers and its solutions simply address symptoms not causes.

Dr Ian Gibson, Chairman of the Committee, said "The Government has put some welcome funding into science but it will not get value for money while our researchers are spending all their time making job applications."

Copies of this Reports can be obtained from the dates of publication from TSO outlets and from the Parliamentary Bookshop, 12 Bridge Street, Parliament Square, London SW1A 2JX (020 7219 3890) by quoting House of Commons paper number 1046.  The text of the Report will also be available on the internet at

Further information on the work of the Committee can be obtained from Committee staff on 020 7219 2793/4.

Previous press notices and publications are available on the Committee's internet homepage:

Note for Editors

1.    Under the terms of Standing Order No. 152 the Committee is empowered to examine the "expenditure, policy and administration of the Office of Science and Technology and its associated public bodies". The Committee was appointed on 12 November 2001.