The sum is substantial - domestic spending on basic research is about IR£2m each year; the country also receives IR£20m from the EU. "If the money is not released very soon, there will be one very significant row, " says Vincent McBrierty, a polymer physicist at Trinity College Dublin.

The Office of Science and Technology launched its usual call for proposals in December. "The applications were assessed, ranked and graded, then at the last minute, the plug was pulled, " says John Donovan of the Irish Research Scientists Association. "The people losing out are those with unfunded projects, " he says. The new work was due to start in the autumn.

The Office of Science and Technology is now hoping that the new projects will be funded by the Department of Education and Science. "We are in discussion with the department about whether they will use their money for our research start-ups this year, " says Michael Fahy, who was head of the Office of Science and Technology until the end of last month. "[The issue] needs to be should have been done yesterday, " he adds.