Research rebuttal

7th April 2000 at 01:00
AN ARRAY of senior luminaries has sprung to the defence of the Scottish Council for Research in Education (Letters, page two). They argue that the decision by the Executive to reduce funding was premature and ill-thought through. Clearly, they hope that a combination of educational argument and political pressure will persuade ministers to reconsider their decision.

If the existence of SCRE were immediately at risk, a rescue campaign would have good reason for optimism. In a devolved country where education is a political priority, the scrapping of an independent think-tank would make no sense. On ministers' own argument, educational practitioners need a sounding board for ideas, innovatory practices and national policies: would they work? have they worked?

SCRE, however, need not fold because it loes a third of its guaranteed income. Some of the "loss" might be won back from the same source, case by case. Enterprise might identify new sources of income. But there are aspects of the council's work beyond those won in project bidding which are never going to be self-supporting but are worth maintaining.

The wider research community is likely to be most concerned by the education minister's attack on slack methods and unconvincing evidence in publicly funded projects. It will see greater urgency in defending social-science practice than in supporting SCRE. These days funds are scrapped for in ruck and maul. One less player on the field would be one less competitor. But such self-interest might prove misguided. The SCRE announcement shows insensitivity in high places and should be rebutted.

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