Research at universities in the United Kingdom is funded through a system of dual support: response-mode grants fund specific projects; and a block grant (Quality-related Research funding, QR) is awarded to institutions to spend at their own discretion. How QR funding contributes to research has rarely been studied and consequently, this project explored some of the ways that QR supports the research of individual researchers and using the University of Cambridge as a pilot case.
The authors used qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate a number of aspects of academic life that could be linked to QR including sabbaticals; publications which lack external funding acknowledgements or links to grants; seed grant schemes; and salary support which bridges researchers between fixed term contracts. All methods – used and attempted – are described and accompanied by a set of reflections for further evaluations of QR’s impact at other institutions. The authors found that QR makes many contributions to the research environment across all disciplines supporting the conception and incubation of new ideas. Furthermore, QR can support the entire research endeavour in more theory-based disciplines such as the Arts, Humanities, Mathematics, Computer Science, as well as pockets of other fields where project costs are lower.