Following consultation with our Science Board, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Council has agreed a new process for programme evaluation on the recommendation of STFC Executive Board (EB). It builds on the successful features of previous programmatic reviews and remains a robust process to assess performance and future opportunities but moves to a lighter touch approach.
Due to the long term nature of STFC’s core programme it is important to evaluate it regularly to ensure it continues to meet STFC’s highest priority strategic goals. As part of this evaluation, it is necessary to ensure that the balance within and between each element of the programme is the most appropriate within the funding available.
In the past the entire core programme has been reviewed at the same time in one ‘programmatic review’ however, these are resource-intensive and do not always achieve the intended aims in some areas.
As part of recent changes to STFC’s organisational structure, strategy processes have been refreshed, including consideration of how we evaluate programmes. The aim is to turn the long term review of the research programme into ‘business as usual’ that is not a large onerous task, at any one time, for staff or the research community. While at the same time continuing to ensure there is an ongoing consultative dialogue with the community.
To ensure STFC’s core programme continues to be of world-leading quality and in-line with STFC strategy.
- to assess the quality of STFC’s core programme in terms of science, operational effectiveness, and impact
- to inform STFC’s future strategic and financial planning
- to define appropriate research areas and recommend a research portfolio and planning timeline for STFC support to those research areas.
This programme evaluation is not a peer review process but is a light touch strategic review that provides a strategic framework in which peer review decisions can be made.
The evaluation has two key elements.
- The first is a strategic evaluation of each programme (for example Particle Physics). These would take place on a rolling four-year timescale, with two areas being evaluated each year however we would ensure that the Particle Physics, Astronomy and Nuclear Physics (PPAN) research areas would be evaluated as close as possible so that the balance of programme discussions would be able to use data from a similar period.
- The second is a balance of programme exercise. The purpose of this is to define approximately how much funding should be allocated to each research area. EB will be responsible for the overall balance of the programme and will receive advice on the future direction etc. through both individual programme evaluations and through financial information based on the strategic financial planning. It is proposed that this takes place in two ways. Firstly, on a three-year cycle, Science Board will consider the balance within the PPAN programme (for example exploitation vs development), IAB the balance of the innovations programmes and SEAB the balance of the skills (including studentships) and public engagement programmes. Secondly, on an annual cycle, EB will consider the future balance between the PPAN programme, Innovations, Technology and Skills. These will be assessed on a five to ten-year planning horizon.
Ongoing dialogue and consultation with our research community will continue to be a prime part of this evaluation process as it develops over time.
Last updated: 12 September 2023