Dear AVA members
We thought that you might be interested in this recent exchange. Below is a letter that I wrote to the remit team at the ESRC (the address is provided on their web site), the purpose of which is self explanatory. Below that is their reply. This clearly sets out the vision/perception remits of ESRC, EPSRC, BBSRC and MRC. We intend to follow this up with a further letter to each of these RCs, building on the information provided here. Specifically, we are interested to know where anyone interested in the basic functional relationship between stimulus and behaviour might submit their grants. Needless to say, we are interested to hear any comments that anyone might have.
Dear ESRC - I would like to raise a question regarding the remit of the ESRC, but I must briefly outline some background first. The Applied Vision Association (AVA) (of which I am chairman of the executive committee) is a mainly academic body of vision scientists working mainly in optometry and psychology departments in UK universities. Members of the AVA have a broad skill set and work on all aspects of vision science with methods including functional imaging, computational modelling visual psychophysics and other forms of psychological enquiry. For many of our members, their main aim is to understand the brain processes involved in human visual perception. (How do we see? How good are we at seeing? Why do things look the way they do? How are our visual perceptions interpreted? What are the most important factors in the world that contribute to our perceptions?). Over recent decades, these successful lines of enquiry have been funded largely by EPSRC and BBSRC. However, our members have reported an increasing tendency for their grant proposals to be returned from these research councils without review, with a suggestion that they should be rewritten for ESRC. Therefore, with this apparent shift in remit (or at least its interpretation) from the other research councils, I am writing to seek clarification on how ESRC sees research on visual perception fitting within its own remit. We would be most grateful if it were possible to arrange a meeting to discuss this between two or three members of the executive committee of the AVA and an appropriate representative of ESRC.
I do look forward to hearing from you.
Dear Professor Meese
Thank you for your enquiry. We cannot comment on the decisions of the other Research Councils, but all applications are considered on an individual basis, and we recommend that prospective applicants get in touch with us if they are unsure of the remit of their research. We are happy to look at abstracts or outlines not exceeding 2 pages and provide comments on an individual basis to you.
Vision science potentially crosses the remit of several of the Research Councils. This is not necessarily an issue, as we can co-fund such applications between ourselves. However, one Council must lead under these circumstances, so it is important to seek advice as to which Council would be considered to have the most significant interest.
To be of interest to ESRC, the research must not be basic vision science, but must be social science or of immediate direct relevance to social science, in respect of its research questions, aims objectives and methods. We do fund some social science (psychology, psychophysics) work in this area, and have co-funded some other applications with other Research Councils.
We thought it may be helpful to include a general overview of the remits of the other RCs in Psychology:
Underlying biological basis / mechanisms Physical, neurological indicators General mechanisms Normal biology, (i.e. not autism) Normal population 'Abnormal' can be used as a model, i.e. in comparison with 'normal'
Health across the lifespan
Basic psychological underpinning
Research to inform novel strategies for preventing and controlling infectious and immune disease control, including research on human behaviour and lifestyle Systems-based neuroscience research Senses and cognition and behavioural neuroscience Pain Medically relevant psychology Neuro-imaging Dementia, neurodegenerative disease, transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and other areas of neurology Mental health, addictions and psychiatry Lifestyle, socio-economic and behavioural impacts on general health and health inequalities
Relevance to their community
Psychophysics - vision and image, but only where it feeds into the design of displays Neuro - computational modelling / information processing Neuro-informatics
ESRC Remit Team