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Research fields

In principle REIs are open to all fields of science and to all centres meeting the selection criteria of the REI and demonstrating a potential for research excellence. However, some concerns have been raised about a possible bias in the allocation of funds and grants to small and large host institutions (and hence possibly to the hosted CoEs). In the case of the Japanese GCOE programme, for instance, critics detected a tendency to overemphasise currently popular topics (see Chapter 7). Out of the 258 CoEs for which survey data were available it was possible to identify the primary research focus of all but two. Around 77% declared the technical sciences9 as their primary research field but only 23% declared the social sciences and humanities (Figure 3.4). Significant differences emerge in the distribution of CoEsLB and CoEsSB across different research fields. The vast majority (86%) of the CoEsLB undertake research in the technical sciences, and less than 35% of them are concerned with the social sciences and humanities. The distribution of the CoEsSB is less skewed across research areas, with 47% in technical sciences and 53% in social sciences and humanities. These results highlight an important possible difference in the scope, objectives and type of research carried out by CoEs with different research budgets. With their relatively larger budgets and research teams, the CoEsLB concentrate on technical and applied fields of research for which laboratories and expensive physical infrastructures are often needed.

Figure 3.4. Primary research focus of CoEs

Source: OECD/RIHR Survey to Centres of Excellence, 2012.

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