Select Committee on Science and Technology Sixth Report


1.We recommend that Forward Look be published annually, and that it be published together with the statistical supplement. It is widely used by the science, engineering and technology community. (Paragraph 15)
2.We recommend that the next issue of Forward Look provide a clear statement of Government's overall strategy for science and technology and show explicitly how expenditure figures match policy objectives. We look forward to publication of the departmental strategies and trust that these will contain meaningful measures of Departments' science, engineering and technology performance. (Paragraph 16)
3.Government must actively promote Foresight to a broad range of industrial sectors, and in particular to SMEs. The learned societies, trade associations and the regional development agencies would provide useful focal points for this activity. (Paragraph 23)
4.We recommend that Government make further use of Foresight in developing a coherent science, engineering and technology policy within and between Departments. (Paragraph 24)
5.On balance, Foresight has fallen short of its aims. It has the potential to be a valuable exercise but to date it has been disappointing. The quality of the second round reports is said to be variable. We look forward to the outcome of the review of Foresight being undertaken by the Minister for Science. In our view, Foresight needs to be refocussed and revitalised. (Paragraph 25)
6.The creation of the post of the Director General of the Research Councils appears to have been very successful. We regret, however, that the DGRC has become less visible of late: the post would benefit from a higher profile. (Paragraph 27)
7.We see no need at present for an "Expert Advisory Group" to advise the DGRC. (Paragraph 28)
8.The re-organisation of the Research Councils has proved a success. (Paragraph 30)
9.We recommend that the Director General of the Research Councils monitor closely interdisciplinary areas which cross council boundaries. The Research Councils should exchange best practice, looking where appropriate to remove unnecessary variations in working methods. (Paragraph 31)
10.The Research Councils seem to have got the balance about right, treating wealth creation and quality of life as secondary criteria to scientific excellence. (Paragraph 32)
11.We welcome the proposed change to the status of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils, to bring it under the joint ownership of the grant awarding Research Councils. (Paragraph 33)
12.We look forward with interest to the outcome of the quinquennial review of the Research Councils. (Paragraph 34)
13.We consider that further efforts should be made to disseminate the Council for Science and Technology's work more widely. (Paragraph 37)
14.The Government should give more prominence to the activities of the Council for Science and Technology and respond to its recommendations. (Paragraph 38)
15.Universities have improved their technology transfer capabilities and links with industry. (Paragraph 42)
16.We recommend that the Government encourage greater collaboration and joint working to develop best practice on technology transfer across universities and to enhance the commercial exploitation of research. (Paragraph 42)
17.In the longer term Government should look to rationalise the plethora of technology transfer schemes aiming to develop a simplified, flexible unbureaucratic approach. (Paragraph 43)
18.Ministers should resist the temptation to launch new schemes when it would be better to strengthen existing ones. (Paragraph 43)
19.We recommend that the Government develop an overarching strategy for technology transfer activities and publish a framework to be actively promoted to all interested parties. (Paragraph 44)
20.We recommend that Government promote secondment schemes more actively and consider expanding those already in existence. (Paragraph 45)
21.Universities must protect their intellectual property appropriately, in the long term interest of both the university and the UK as a whole. The funding regime may need to be changed to allow the universities to take a longer term perspective. (Paragraph 46)
22.The management of Intellectual Property is critical if the UK is to be competitive in the global knowledge driven economy. (Paragraph 47)
23.In the longer term Government should look to rationalise the network of innovation support schemes. (Paragraph 49)
24.We recommend that the Government publish a guide outlining the schemes available to SMEs and actively promote these schemes, for example through the Regional Development Agencies and trade associations. (Paragraph 49)
25.We welcome the Government's introduction of measures to support innovative small businesses. (Paragraph 50)
26.We welcome the fiscal measures introduced in the Budget to encourage research and development and recommend that uptake be carefully monitored. Government should also conduct a proactive campaign to promote innovation among those parts of industry which are not traditionally strong in R&D. (Paragraph 51)
27.There needs to be better dialogue between scientists and the public. (Paragraph 53)
28.We welcome the increasing use of the term "Science and Society" or, even better, "Science for Society", to describe activities to promote dialogue and mutual understanding between the scientific community and the public. (Paragraph 55)
29.We recommend that the Government work with the scientific community to build a new strategy for promoting science and technology, building upon the work already being done but reaching out to a broader range of participants and a wider audience. (Paragraph 56)
30.We regret the move towards generalist science courses, which we fear will dilute the knowledge base and result in inadequate preparation for higher education in the sciences. (Paragraph 57)
31.The quality of science teaching in schools has become a major concern. (Paragraph 58)
32.We note that the House of Lords Committee highlights the decline in the amount of practical work in its recent Report on Science in Schools, and recommends that continuing professional development for teachers should be specifically targeted at the problem of declining practical work. We wholeheartedly endorse these views. (Paragraph 58)
33.How to attract high quality science and technology graduates into teaching is a real problem, to which there is no ready answer. Nevertheless, it is a matter which has to be addressed as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 59)
34.It is essential that the Government develop a clear strategy for improving the quality of science teaching in all schools, providing for both teachers and students to gain experience of science and technology in "the real world". (Paragraph 60)
35.The inconsistency in the PhD stipend paid by different Research Councils and by independent agencies is unfair and is likely to be distorting, given the current levels of post-doctoral research salaries. (Paragraph 65)
36.We welcome the very significant increase in the minimum PhD student stipend, but we believe that it is still not enough to ensure that the best graduates stay on to do doctoral research. The Government should work towards a further significant increase in the PhD student stipend. (Paragraph 66)
37.While the increase to the PhD stipend is welcome, a more serious problem lies with the pay and conditions for post-doctoral scientists. (Paragraph 67)
38.The Government can no longer afford to ignore the problem of low pay and poor job security for post-doctoral researchers and support staff. A shortage of skilled personnel threatens to undermine its commitment to strengthening the science base. (Paragraph 67)
39.What is important is to build on the strengths of the individual and to accord equal value, and rewards, to both teaching and research. (Paragraph 68)
40.We must do more to support excellent scientists and engineers. (Paragraph 69)
41.The Government must ensure that schemes to encourage experienced entrepreneurs from abroad to come to the UK are not undermined by tax disincentives. (Paragraph 70)
42.We welcome the Government's commitment to improving opportunities for women in science, engineering and technology. (Paragraph 74)
43.It is clear that there are still barriers to women realising their potential in science, engineering and technology. (Paragraph 74)
44.We stand by our view that the Office of Science and Technology should remain with the Department of Trade and Industry, and that the Minister for Science should be raised to Cabinet rank. (Paragraph 75)
45.We hope that the departmental science strategies, which are expected to be published in the Summer of 2001, will demonstrate that departments are committing additional funding to research and development. The publication of Forward Look 2001 also provides an opportunity for Government to show the impact of the 2000 Spending Review on overall government expenditure on R&D. (Paragraph 76)
46.If public confidence in science is to be restored, it is essential that Government Departments have sufficient well-qualified scientific staff in-house to advise on scientific matters and to ensure that Government is able to make full use of science and technology; and there must be mechanisms to ensure that their advice is taken into account by policymakers. (Paragraph 77)
47.Devolution must not be allowed to weaken the UK science base. The Government must ensure that the devolved administrations are fully involved in the development of science policy in order to avoid inconsistency of purpose in the different parts of the UK. (Paragraph 78)
48.We recommend that the Office of Science and Technology update its report measuring the quality of the UK Science Base on a regular basis. (Paragraph 79)
49.Sustained and substantial funding of the science base will be required to ensure that the UK can continue to 'punch above its weight'. (Paragraph 79)
50.We are yet to see hard evidence that the policies introduced by Realising Our Potential have had a significant impact on investment in science and innovation. (Paragraph 80)

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