May 16, 2012

Blue Moon hypothesis tested in Large Football Collider (LFC)

The Manchester Derby 2007. What a difference five years makes

“This is how it feels to be City, this is how it feels to be small, this is how it feels when your team wins nothing at all.”  [1,3]

If you are not interested in Football Science, look away now. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

There is a controversial idea in football that money buys trophies, also known as Mancini’s Blue Moon hypothesis.

Two rival Universities have led the way in testing this idea, The University of Old Trafford and the The University of Eastlands, both in Manchester. One institute is led by a Scot, Professor Ferguson the other by an Italian, Professor Mancini. Both Universities have assembled teams of elite researchers including Doctor Vidic (PhD, University of Spartak Moscow) and Doctor Kompany (PhD, University of Hamburger) in their respective labs to carry out the necessary experiments.

Professor Mancini’s research laboratory have recently produced some intriguing experimental results by winning the 2012 Premier League title with generous funding from the Mansour Research Council (MRC) [2] (not to be confused with the Medical Research Council). The MRC has invested significantly more funding than rival bodies like the Glazer Research Council (GRC) not be be confused with the Global Research Council, which has opened up exciting new research opportunities in applied football science.

Some leading football scientists say Mancini’s Blue Moon hypothesis has been proven beyond all doubt; money does buy you trophies. Other scientists say that is it too early to tell, these results are inconclusive and more research is needed. Professor Ferguson insists that other factors besides money are significant in winning trophies.

Experimentalists will resume their research when the Large Football Collider (LFC) is switched back on in August 2012 after its annual summer shutdown. Is Mancini’s hypothesis proven or not? Tune in next season …


  1. Inspiral Carpets (1990) This Is How It Feels to be Lonely, This Is How It Feels to be Small Mute records
  2. The Premier League Research Council (PLRC) funds research into basic and applied football science in collaboration with the Mansour Research Council and many others. These football science councils have a larger fund than all the other traditional scientific research councils combined (EPSRC, BBSRC, NERCMRC, STFC and PPARC etc).

May 26, 2009

Grants on the Web: Transparent Scientific Funding?

Lord Drayson by DIUSGOVUKAll over the Britain, politicians are getting ready to publish their expenses on the Interweb. Why? Because they are trying to regain their lost credibility, after making some incredibly dodgy and embarrassing expense claims [1-7]. Scandals aside, this is all well and good since this money has come from the UK taxpayers pocket, and politicians are public servants, doing public work which is supposedly in the public good.

Scientists, like politicians, also provide a public service, spending public money, for the public good. Science is public knowledge after all and scientists spend quite a lot of public money. At least £3 billion was spent on scientific research in the UK during 2008 (see Who Funds Science in Britain?) and that was just research, not teaching. Wouldn’t it be great if anyone who was interested could see what all this money had been spent on, who spent it and what the outcomes were?

Thankfully you can already do this for some areas of research. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) which currently spends around £740 million a year on everything from “mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering” has a system called Grants on the Web @ gow.epsrc.ac.uk. You can find out who spent the money and how much money was spent since the system was set up, see an EPSRC example here. Some of the original grant proposals are there too, which can be enlightening. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) also has a similar system (called oasis), though it is not as easy to use and link to – see a BBSRC example here. The trouble is, if you can’t easily link to it, it doesn’t get indexed by search engines. If it doesn’t get indexed by search engines, then it’s almost invisible. Fortunately, the BBSRC are working on improving this, with a new system due for release in the autumn of 2009.

Other organisations are putting grant information on the web too. Recently, thanks to the UK’s PubMed Central database you can also see the published results of publicly funded biomedical research. The funders pages at ukpmc.ac.uk/funders give a breakdown of published results from different funding bodies, as described in this article by Robert Kiley of the Wellcome Trust and this one by Alison Henning.

Now not all the research councils seem to publish their grants on the Web in a transparent manner*, and some of those that do, leave lots of room for improvement. But it is still useful to be able to see where some of that public money went and what the outcomes of the research were. More transparent spending of public money like this isn’t just a desirable extra, it should come as standard.

* (It is difficult to find the details of grants awarded by JISC, NERC, MRC and STFC, but please leave a comment below if you know where this information is published. More commentary on this post over at friendfeed.)

[Creative Commons licensed picture of Baron Paul Drayson, currently UK Science Minister from DIUSGOVUK.]


  1. The Daily Telegraph (2009) MPs’ expenses: all the gory details from the Daily Telegraph
  2. The Guardian (2009) Grauniad datablog: MP’s expenses as spreadsheet and Free Our Data: Make taxpayers’ data available to them
  3. Wikipedia (2009) MPs’ expenses in wikipedia
  4. BBC News (2009) MPs’ expenses: A triumph of journalism? A week after its opening salvo, the Daily Telegraph is still reaping great benefit from its exclusive expose of MPs’ expenses.
  5. BBC News (2009) Q&A: MP expenses row explained: Revelations in the Daily Telegraph about exactly what MPs have been claiming on expenses has prompted a public outcry and a pledge to reform the “gentlemen’s club” at Westminster
  6. BBC Newsnight (2009) Stephen Fry dismisses MPs’ expenses row, accusing journalists of hypocrisy
  7. The Guardian (2009) Censored version of MPs’ expenses will break the law, Hugh Tomlinson QC warns

August 12, 2008

Who funds Science in Britain?

Unon Jack by bambi851The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is full of scientists. All kinds of scientists working in biology, chemistry and physics, as well as plenty of mathematicians, engineers and technologists too work in the UK. They make their living in good old Blighty, pushing forward the boundaries of human knowledge, wherever and whenever they can. Nanotechnology, astronomy, molecular biology, primatology, climatology and lots of other ‘ologies can all be found in Britain. Who is it that pays them and how much money do they spend? Here is a list of funding bodies in 2008, along with their annual budgets and chief executives. It is not a comprehensive list, because it does not include all charities, European money and privately funded Science. However, it does cover most of the larger funding bodies… (more…)

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