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Research Councils should steer clear of strategic partnerships with individual firms

Firms like Shell can and should collaborate with taxpayer funded researchers. But no single organisation should be granted privileged access to the processes by which priorities for public research funding are set.

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: Tuesday 11 February 2014 08.29 GMT

My fellow blogger Alice Bell posted about a new tie-up between NERC (the UK Natural Environment Research Council) and Shell last week. The tie-up takes the form of a formal Memorandum of Understanding, which – in Shell’s words – is intended “to maximise the benefits from our mutual interests in areas of long-term research, postgraduate training and knowledge exchange through jointly funded and supported research projects”. “Strategic partnerships” are all the rage between research performing organisations and companies (NERC is a significant performer of research through major institutes such as the British Antarctic Survey but its primary role is as a funding agency) and this is not NERC’s first such partnership (that was with engineering partnership Arup), but it’s the most high profile announced so far. The post generated some debate below the line, raising several issues which are worth exploring further.

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