2023: What won’t happen – Research Professional News

2023: What won’t happen – Research Professional News

What is Liz Truss’ next move? Is Paul Nurse still reviewing? John Whitfield looks ahead

It’s that time of year again when I like to use cutting-edge, scientific superpower technology to see into the future. That has the year 2023 in store for the research world.


Patrick Vallance submits his review of post-Brexit regulatory options almost a year before the deadline. “I had it ready before Christmas,” he says, “but I was visiting relatives and forgot to send it in.” Vallance identifies trolling and necromancy as growth industries held back by bureaucracy in Brussels.


George Freeman changes his Twitter handle to @RealScienceMinister. The Department for Enterprise, Energy and Industrial Strategy is downplaying speculation that this reflects tensions with Nusrat Ghani, Beis’ other minister for a long list of high-tech stuff. “It’s a call for sanity,” said a spokesman. “He means he’s the real science minister, not that he’s the real science minister.”


Turns out Paul Nurse is still checking something out. “It was lost on us, what with the appointment of two prime ministers and – what, seven? — Happened to business secretaries before us,” explains poor Beis spokesman. “But one intern got lost and ended up in a room we thought had been mothballed since the pandemic. The nurse was in there checking like everything else.”


Ex-PM Liz Truss takes the helm of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency. “Liz has shown a fantastic appetite for the first half of Aria’s ‘High Risk, High Return’ mandate,” said Business Secretary Grant Shapps. “And if the second part turns out to be lengthy, it’s not like she’s going to be in charge of the economy. Cutting-edge science has never hurt anyone.”


The Future Research Assessment Program concludes with a recommendation to double-count submissions on jetpacks and submit impact case studies in pill form. The closing session is interrupted by a man claiming to be from the Not-Too-Distant-Future Research Assessment Program. “You don’t know what you’re unleashing!” he yells as Research England staff shove him out of the room. Participants note the Gatecrasher’s resemblance to a post-apocalyptic version of former REF boss David Sweeney.


Ex-Science Minister Amanda Solloway is moving back to Beis from the Office of the Whips to take on another science assignment alongside Freeman and Ghani. Rishi Sunak explains the decision: “My daughter says that if two hamsters aren’t happy together, introducing a third one will help them. I suspect she’s fishing for another hamster, but it’s worth a try. And for Amanda, hamstering victims is a less thankless job than trying to keep Tory MPs in line.”


George Freeman interrupts his vacation to speak to Research Fortnight. “I’m on the beach. From here it’s clear that if I swim to what looks like the horizon I haven’t really reached the horizon – I’ll just be looking at another horizon. And beyond that horizon there will be another give horizon and so on.”


Not even invented research policy news is published in August.


Aria announces its first grant tranche. Funded projects include “Looking at you instead of chewing a brick: Heuristics for decision-making”, “Using angry bears to stop erupting volcanoes” and “What does this button do?”


To their mutual embarrassment, the European Research Group receives funding from the European Research Council. “We assumed that ‘European research’ means that you are doing research on Europe,” says ERC President Maria Leptin. “We assumed that ‘European Research’ meant they were a Brexit think tank swimming in dark money,” says ERG Chairman Mark Francois.


Katherine Fletcher, MP for South Ribble, joins Freeman, Ghani and Solloway in Beis’ ministerial portfolio. “The idea was that the four would play in the semifinals and the winners would meet in a decider,” says a department source. This proves a non-starter when Grant Shapps accidentally CCs MPs Mark Fletcher (Bolsover) and Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) and gives them jobs as well, instead of admitting his mistake.


In a freak accident at the Culham Center for Fusion Energy, the Beis-Six collapse into a single super-dense Minister of Science of unimaginable power. “We’re too scared to go to his office, but we believe he’s working on a grant application for Aria,” says a spokesperson. “Something about artificial intelligence for research evaluation.”

John Whitfield is Opinion Editor for Research Fortnight

This article also appeared in Research Fortnight

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