It seems to me that patronage in the sciences is becoming more important than the science, or the proposal itself. With the EPSRC move to focus funding on specific researchers we are starting down a very dangerous path.
The focus on ‘outstanding researchers’ with proven track records means that most researchers work will be lost, and that without a patron who already has the research council patronage, junior or mid level scientists cannot progress. Further, this kind of favouritism promotes safe thinking, and an absence of innovative but risky ideas. Anything, that is not the thinking of the leader is removed as only the leader has the ability to get funding. So the best science is not funded, and the most political academics are able to get funding.
Now, yes, this is a cynical view, and thankfully it doesn’t happen too much yet at Manchester, but it is coming. You are far more likely to get funded if you have the ‘right’ people on the grant. This means new ideas which go against the accepted view are not investigated, and that ideas which are sub standard or badly argued are accepted for funding.
I’m worried, as you might be able to tell, maybe novel ideas will be created by people without patronage and getting a academic star to put themselves on the grant will ensure acceptance.