Not all grants need to be for research. Funding for many grants in the UK are not open to competition. But most grant funding for research, and for some basic science, is awarded through competitive grants or by the Royal Society or the National University of Singapore. Other types of funding, and indeed all types, depend on the need for the research. This is known as the need for resources, and the criteria for grant funding in Singapore are very broad. It might be that, for example, a research project is in need of technical expertise in areas like chemical analysis or bioinformatics, and the applicant is seeking access to resources to achieve this.
These are not uncommon situations. The most cited report on the need for more funds for research is also called ‘The Need for More Funding for Research’. It notes that ‘research grant applications in Singapore tend to be of a type not frequently encountered in most other Western countries’, because ‘the funding and other policies of Singapore are characterised by the fact that there is less government interference with the allocation of funds’. The report adds that these pressures are one reason that the proportion of research grants granted directly in the name of the RAS has been dropping from around 80% in the late 1960s to around 30% today. In 2013, about half of total Singaporean research grant applications were received under the RASE system, which is also used by universities (although on a very low scale) in Canada, China and other countries such as Finland and Australia.
It is a rare person in Singapore who does research and the number of non-academic or specialist researchers continues to grow.
In terms of the number of researchers, the RASE system is more of a niche than a panacea. In 2013, there were 2,068 scientists, engineers and technicians working in Singapore, or 13.5% of the overall global total, but only 3.1% of the total science and technology jobs in the nation. In comparison with a similar population, these researchers have an average of four children while the general population has two. One might argue that research with a focus on the physical sciences and biotechnology is the most productive form of science because it is most easily adapted to the needs of business. But research in higher education that can be applied to the needs of business is also highly valued.
The key element of the RASE system is that it is not directly competition for research funds or funding – the aim is to raise funding for research for all Singaporeans
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