Memorandum submitted by the Particle Physics
and Astronomy Research Council
1. The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research
Council is one of the six Research Councils established or re-established
by the 1993 White Paper. We therefore welcome this timely opportunity
for the Committee to examine the impact of that White Paper. As
a broad generalisation we believe that its impact has been positive.
2. The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research
Council was itself the subject of a detailed enquiry by the Select
Committee, the report of which was published as the Fourth Report
of the 1995-96 Session (HC 249-1). The findings of that inquiry
were in general very favourable to PPARC.
1. PPARC believes that overall the creation
of a separate Research Council for astronomy and particle physics
has been a success.
2. It has put a clearer focus on the issues
involved in supporting these subjects, in particular the need
to work in large international collaborations, and to plan strategically
on timescales of five to fifteen years.
3. It has thus allowed the Council to develop
long range strategic planning, to develop strategic international
alliances; and to conduct long term "Foresight" activities
such as the Long Term Science Review and Long Term Technology
Review (in collaboration with all the other Research Councils)see
4. It has allowed the Council to implement
the White Paper priorities through policies and practices closely
geared to the needs of its user communities; in education and
training; in industrial collaboration; and in public understanding
5. The White Paper acknowledged the importance
of basic research, and recognised the essential role of government
in funding it. However the 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review
led to an outcome in which the only Research Council entirely
dedicated to basic research (ie PPARC) was the only Council not
to receive a significant increase in funding in real terms. That
pattern should now be changedsee below.
6. The White Paper was based on the implicit
assumption that basic research leads to applied research which
leads, in turn, to industrial or other applications, the so-called
"linear model". The White Paper was published in 1993,
which happened to be the year in which the World Wide Web (conceived
in CERN) started to take off. We would argue that this is the
output with the biggest financial and social impact of the entire
science base in the last 10 years. It has also demonstrated the
deficiency of the linear model, and illustrates the much more
complex interaction that exists between basic research and exploitation.
Any future science White Paper should recognise those more complex
7. There are two returns from investment
in basic research. In the long term, fundamental science has shown
large capital returns. The discovery of the electron 100 years
ago is a classic example. Deep understanding leads to long term
economic return such as the current electronic revolution. But
to achieve our basic science we need new technology, such as software
for the World Wide Webinvented as a tool for physicists.
These two types of advances are closely tied. Basic science has
been and will be a crucial technology driver for all of science
and society. There is also a strong need in our brightest and
best young people to attack the deepest problems. This is what
attracts them to study and research in physics and has been a
British strength from Newton onwards.
8. All PPARC research requires technology
stretched to its limits often in collaboration with industry.
This requires long range planning. PPARC has led the way in developing
its own technology foresight activity, and subsequently an interdisciplinary
review of the technological needs of the whole science base (referred
to above). (Copies of the summary report "Technology for
the Future" are enclosed for the Committee).
9. The report shows the extent of commonality
of technological interest across different research sectors, and
hence the potential for collaborative technology R&D programmes
between Research Councils and with industry. PPARC is developing
proposals in this area, in collaboration with other Research Councils.
We recommend that Government should recognise the importance of
such basic technology R&D by providing additional funding
to stimulate this area.
10. The 1993 White Paper identified university/industry
collaboration as a solution to the UK's relatively poor performance
in innovation. The later 1998 White Paper on competitiveness "Building
the Knowledge Driven Economy" recognised explicitly the primary
role of business and industry in addressing this and put forward
a number of measures in support, including the additional funding
for the science base announced earlier as part of the Comprehensive
Spending Review, and measures to encourage more university/industry
11. The "Baker" Report to Treasury
and DTI Ministers on the exploitation of Public Sector Research
Establishments (PSRE) research ("Creating Knowledge, creating
Wealth: Realising the Economic potential of PSREs"), stated
explicitly (para 1.12) that "The strength of demand from
industry is probably the single biggest determinant of the commercialisation
opportunity. An industry dominated by large successful companies,
for example pharmaceuticals, has the resources to seek out and
exploit PSRE research effectively. Small, fragmented, or low margin
industries like sections of the UK engineering sector provide
little "industry pull". If the Government wants to address
PSRE commercialisation in the round, it will need to consider
how to maximise industry pull, as well as "PSRE" push".
Although that study applied to PSREs, the same applies at least
as strongly to universityindustry collaboration.
12. At the same time, the UK R&D scoreboard
1999 (published by DTI) shows that while the physical sciences
and engineering-based sectors (ie chemistry, maths etc) of Aerospace
and Defence, Automobiles, Electronic and Electrical, Engineering
and Machinery, IT Hardware, Software and Telecoms have combined
sales some five times greater than the combined sales of the Pharmaceutical
and Health sectors; their combined total spend on R&D at around
£3.8bn was only just greater than that for Pharmaceuticals
and Health at £3.6bn. The average intensity (defined as R&D/Sales
per cent) was 3.1 per cent for those physical sciences and engineering
sectors compared to fifteen per cent for pharmaceuticals and six
per cent for Health; and only in Pharmaceuticals did it exceed
the international average. These figures demonstrate not only
the relative importance to the economy of the physics and engineering
based sectors, but also the comparatively low "pull through"
which they exert from their own R&D efforts compared to the
pharmaceutical sector alone. Any future White Paper on science
and innovation needs to be built on these analyses of the UK economy
and pattern of industrial R&D spend.
13. The 1993 White Paper in general addressed
only one sector of the national R&D endeavour, namely the
Science Budget. It did little to recognise that nationally the
UK invests in R&D at a lower level pro rata than most of its
competitors. UK gross expenditure on R&D as a percentage of
GDP stood at 1.9 per cent in 1997 compared to USA 2.7 per cent,
Japan 2.9 per cent, Germany 2.3 per cent, France 2.2 per cent
(OECD statistics). One component of this is the relatively low
level of industrial investment in R&D (outside the pharmaceutical
and fine chemical sector see above). Any future White Paper on
science and innovation must address this.
14. The other main component is the low
and declining level of R&D investment by government departments
other than OST. The Select Committee's own Report on "Government
Expenditure on R&D : The Forward Look" (HC 196-I) set
out their concerns on this issue, and recommended that "the
long term decline in funding Departmental SET must be halted and
reversed in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review".
We would concur.
15. The 1993 White Paper introduced the
Foresight (then called Technology Foresight) process. We acknowledge
the substantial effort, and achievement since then in terms of
consultation and the preparation of (many) panel reports, and
in the beneficial networking of individuals from different sectors
that this inevitably entailed. We have yet however to see evidence
of any overall benefit from the process to UK industry, the national
economy or to the size, distribution, or nature of the UK's scientific
or technical portfolio. There is no equivalent of the US DARPA
visible to us driving visionary plans. Any future White Paper
should examine, and act upon the lessons to be learnt here.
16. The Committee invited views on issues
to be addressed in any future Government White Paper on science
and technology. The following are further recommendations in addition
to points made above.
17. PPARC believes that the Government should
demonstrate its commitment to basic research by giving adequate
funding to our areas of fundamental science ie astronomy and particle
physics. The scientific community's assessment of the future requirements
needed to keep UK research internationally competitive has been
published in the booklet "Unveiling the Universe". (The
full report is on the PPARC Website). Overall PPARC judges that
an additional approximately £30 million per annum is needed
to meet these requirements.
18. Amongst these, a key requirement for
the UK's future in world astronomy is to participate at a significant
level in the next global ground-based projects; the Atacama Large
Millimetre Array (ALMA) and the planned 30-50M telescope, known
for now as OWL (the Over Whelmingly Large) telescope. The UK will
be able to participate in these most effectively if it is a member
of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). This would also enable
the UK to improve its share of 8 metre telescope time, without
which we will be relegated in the world league. But even cutting
back on existing commitments eg to current telescopes, will not
provide enough funding, and only if the Government provide new
resources will the UK safeguard its position in this key area
19. A recent review "International
Perceptions of UK Research in Physics and Astronomy" initiated
by the OST, and conducted by a panel of eminent overseas physicists
has concluded that UK particle physics and astronomy is of internationally
very high standing, and that a healthy base of physics as a whole
was critical to the national economy. It did however "suffer
from a low level of funding", and the Panel said "substantial
increases are now required in order to bring UK physics research
up to international levels". PPARC draws the Committee's
attention to this important report, and recommends that Government
should act on its findings.
IT AND THE
20. The World Wide Web is transforming the
economy in ways undreamed of even five years ago. And we are on
the verge of the next generation Webthe massively more
powerful computational Grid. The US is developing this fast. Particle
physicists at CERN will need this computing infrastructure to
analyse data from the next generation accelerator, the Large Hadron
Collider (LHC) that will start to operate in 2005. Other areas
of sciencefrom genomics, to climate modelling, to astronomy
and remote sensing will need similar resources. Action is being
co-ordinated at a European level. UK industry must be involved
if it is not to be left behind by its competitors. The UK Government
must give both the organisational lead, and the funding required
to ensure that the UK plays its full part, and thereby reap the
21. Europe has, collectively, a research
enterprise on a scale similar to that of the USA. Yet in many
areas the USA is still, or is still regarded, as the leading scientific
power. Certainly many more young Europeans go to the States for
research experience than vice versa. Professor Sir Martin Rees
FRS (in Science and Parliament, Vol 57. No 2) has pointed out
that "In the big sciences where international collaboration
is absolutely essential, the European scene is increasingly healthy",
and cites CERN and the ESA science programme as examples of where
European science is now able to compete on a par with the States.
22. A future White Paper needs to address
the new ideas being put forward by EU Commissioner Philippe Busquin
for making European science more coherent and cost-effective;
and for using EU funding to catalyse change.
A national strategy for research infrastructure
and major facilities
23. The recent issues surrounding the Government's
decision on the new Synchrotron source to be sited at the CLRC
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory have highlighted the need for the
development of a long-term strategy for major national (and international)
Science, particularly physics, education
24. The 1993 White Paper recognised the
need to increase the nation's scientific literacy and numeracy.
There is a national shortage of good science, particularly physics
teachers. The Research Councils including PPARC have made efforts
to improve the teaching of their subjects in schools. But these
efforts seem not to be matched by action from the DfEE. The Council
for Science and Technology has recently received a report on teachers'
needs in science. The next science White Paper should address
how government will mount an integrated programme including both
DfEE and OST to improve school science teaching and the recruitment
of science teachers.