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UKRI Bill Passed

UK lawmakers rushed to put through controversial legislation revamping research and higher education there, Nature News reports. The haste, it notes, was precipitated by Prime Minister Theresa May's call for new elections, which will dissolve Parliament early.

The bill changes how research is funded as well as how universities are governed, Nature News says, and garnered significant criticism when first proposed. In particular, it calls for seven research councils plus Innovate UK and portions of the Higher Education Funding Council for England to be bundled under the auspices of a new, central agency, UK Research and Innovation. Beginning in 2018, UKRI will oversee the distribution of the UK's £6-billion (US $7.8-billion) research budget, Nature News adds.

Critics, though, argued that the changes weren't needed and threatened researchers' independence, it says. But, Nature News notes that some concerns were mollified by the addition of safeguards for institutional autonomy and the protection of research funding from political interference.

In February, Mark Walport, chief scientific advisor to the UK government, was selected to head up UKRI.