The overarching policy framework for the Research Councils is set by Government. Within this framework, and in keeping with the "Haldane Principle", day-to-day decisions and specifically decisions about research funding are taken by the Research Councils. This means that Government determines, for example, the sum allocated to each Research Council and may take the final decision about participation in major international collaborations, however Government has no involvement in deciding which people or which particular projects are funded.
Each Research Council has governing body called its "Council". The Council body is responsible for setting each Research Councils’ policy, strategy and priorities. It is also accountable for the stewardship of the Council’s budget and the extent to which objectives have been delivered and targets have been met. Council members are appointed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who is answerable to Parliament for the Councils’ activities.
A Performance Management Framework has been implemented to ensure effective planning, monitoring, reporting and delivery of the Research Councils objectives. This framework includes the following elements:
- a Research Council scientific vision or strategic plan which sets outs the Council’s overarching research aspirations and priorities over a 5 year plus period.
- a Research Council delivery plan that sets out priorities and plans for the three years of the Government’s Spending Review cycle.
- a suite of performance metrics (the outputs framework) to measure progress towards the deliverables set out in their delivery plans and scorecards.