In the past, Britain held a pre-eminent position in many areas of science. Present achievement is more pedestrian, especially in the physical sciences and engineering. There are clouds hanging over the future because of the inherently conservative nature of the current peer-review process for research proposals and the ever-increasing micromanagement and regulation imposed by the UK government. Paradoxically, as the degree of control has increased, the output performance of scientists at the very highest level appears to have declined.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(05)70937-8