Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists


  IPMS welcomes the White Paper and the general boost it gives to science in the UK. However, it pays too little attention to the role of science in government and the support of policy, especially on quality of life issues such as health, security and the environment.


  Departmental funding outside the "science budget", which is the major funding source for public policy related science has declined over many years in both amount and proportion of departmental budgets. The 2000 budget has halted the decline, at least for civil departments, but a sustained increased will be needed to repair the damage done over the last decade and if the new Government S&T strategies are to be effective.

  Although the Science Budget is generous for 2000-2004 overall it is below inflation in the first year. Funding for PPARC and NERC will actually decrease during 2001-2 which will exacerbate existing threats of redundancy and undermine the skills base which the rest of the White Paper is keen to protect.


  We welcome the White Paper recognition of the vital importance of people and the wide role which government has in ensuring a sufficient supply of high quality staff and of the importance of "demand pull" or the "intelligent customer" for science in both public and private sectors.

  The measures on the "supply" side are in general welcome, but the action signalled in the White Paper will not fully meet the identified need.


  The White Paper recognises that poor pay and careers, especially the widespread use of fixed-term contracts for scientists in PSREs and universities, are a major disincentive to choosing science as a career. Pay and careers must be improved and the forthcoming consultation on the EC Directive on Fixed Term Contracts used to maximum effect to improve the lot of those on FTCs.

  Further efforts to improve the opportunities for both women and ethnic minorities are needed. Science must fully reflect the diversity of our society, as should the proposed science "ambassadors".


  IPMS welcomes the proposal for government departments to develop S&T strategies based on the recommendations of the Council for Science & Technology. The implementation of the CST report should be an important catalyst in ensuring that the science strategies developed in departments focus on the policy-making, regulatory and "quality of life" functions which in most cases are their primary missions.

  If the DTI is to fulfil its vital role in supporting innovation, both in government and outside, it must have a chief scientist to exercise a leadership role and increase the S&T staffing within DTI.

  In the drive to "commercialise" public research outputs, mechanisms must be in place to ensure that roles and lines of accountability for "quality of life" issues and for "independent scientific advice" are clearly and transparently distinguished from those for industrial sponsorship.

  The emphasis on government departments providing S&T strategies makes it even more important that the "Forward Look" should be published annually alongside "SET Statistics" and that the statistics themselves should be more meaningful for monitoring and review purposes.


  IPMS fully supports the drive to maximise the effective dissemination and application of research results whether this be for public or commercial purposes. We welcome the White Paper's recognition of the need to protect PSREs and universities' objectives of "advancing knowledge and underpinning public policy". We agree wholeheartedly with the unequivocal statement in the White Paper that "IP policy must not undermine these aims and openness is paramount for research that supports public policy".

  Where conflicts between the goals of advancing knowledge in pursuit of government policy and exploitation activity cannot be resolved, priority must be given to the primary goal of knowledge transfer and not to commercialisation.

  Adopting a narrow financial approach may lead to under-valuation of research for the public good that does not have immediate commercial potential. This could have serious long-term implications for public science. Research providers should not be penalised for lack of commercial exploitation. There must be clear objectives for monitoring commercial exploitation; agreed indices; and a shared understanding of how the results of monitoring will be used.

  There is a danger that the complex rules being proposed in the IPR Consultation Paper will involve a significant extra commitment of resources and even may impede the normal channels of diffusion and application or results. There should be regular monitoring of the new arrangements to ensure that the costs do not outweigh the benefits.

  IPMS welcomes the intention that the IPR Guidelines should apply to all public sector purchasers of research and research providers. The management of intellectual property should be covered by a UK-wide framework.


  IPMS has long advocated the need for greater transparency and dialogue in building confidence in science and innovation and generally welcomes the White Paper paragraphs on these issues.

  A policy of openness will require additional resources and support in depth for scientific advisory committees.

  It is vital that all experts advising government declare their interests and that all advice is open and subject to scrutiny by others. This should extend beyond financial considerations, bearing in mind that in the public sector scientific advice fulfils a variety of functions, not all of which have a clear commercial value.

  The principles developed in "Guidelines 2000" and the forthcoming Code for Scientific Advisory Committees should be applied to all scientific advice, both at national, EU and international level.

  If transparency and dialogue are to be effective, attention needs to be paid to the training, security, and rewards of the scientists who take part. It is also important to consider how best to organise the process to ensure that they do not result in reluctance to participate and that the ground rules and criteria being used in any particular context are agreed and clearly spelt out.


  1.  IPMS welcomes this opportunity to supplement their evidence to the Committee on "Realising our Potential" which also enclosed the IPMS response to the DTI Consultation on Science and Innovation Strategy in January 2000, by commenting on the Science White Paper and the "Science Budget". We have organised our points in the order they appear in the White Paper, with supplementary notes on the Science Budget not covered in the White Paper.

  2.  In general we welcome the White Paper. Our main reservation is that it is overwhelmingly concerned with innovation in relation to industry and with the direct relationship between universities and industry. The third major player, government, and with it the public sector research establishments (PSREs), are seen primarily as midwife to the relationships between the other two. The amount of attention given to the role of science in government and the role of "evidence based" policy and promoting quality of life, is comparatively small. The fact that Chapter 4 on the key issue of public trust and confidence building is labelled "Confident Consumers" (our emphasis), is indicative of that approach.


World class infrastructure

  3.  We welcome the White Paper's recognition of the need for a strategy for national and international large infrastructure projects and the greater degree of certainty that a rolling ten year plan will provide(2.17)(1). As far as CCLRC(2.18) is concerned this is currently the subject of a quinquennial review. Stage 1 of the review has been completed and we know that a change in ownership structure is contemplated. IPMS agrees that the structure established under the 1993 White Paper Through which CCLRC is funded by the users, is not a viable mode of funding for such large scale and vital facilities and said so at the time. IPMS has not been allowed to see the proposals for change in ownership structure emerging from stage 1 of the Review until ministers have taken a decision. Given the complexities of the situation, especially in the light of the "Diamond" Synchtotron decision we believe we should have been able to have meaningful consultations on stage 1 proposals rather than face a fait accompli on which we will only be consulted on the implementation. We hope such an important set of facilities will be retained within the public sector.

Funding excellent research

  4.  The White Paper recognises that the Government has to be a key investor in basic science and outlines various expenditures, most deriving from the 2000 spending review, which are very welcome. In particular we welcome the £100 million in the Science Research Investment Fund for Research Council Institutes' infrastructure over three years. For the OST "Science Budget" this is another welcome boost coming on top of the previous CSR. However, the Treasury and other departments are still failing to address the rest of the departmental budgets which are crucial to government policy, statutory and regulatory support, as well as to the direct support of industrial innovation. For example Table 5 in Annex A shows that the proportion of the departmental budget spent on science engineering and technology (SET), already small, has declined by approximately one third since 1988 to a figure of 2.4 per cent in MAFF and 5.6 per cent in DTI.

  5.  The Baker Report said that commercial activities of PSREs should not be used as a substitute for public funding and a similar promise was made by Stephen Timms, Financial Secretary to the Treasury in replying to our response to the Baker Study which had been sent to him

    "I recognise that the core mission of PSREs is to undertake R&D for the Government. Increasing the commercialisation of PSRE research is an important step toward boosting innovation and productivity in the UK. But it is certainly not intended to be a means of substituting core funding. Indeed it is an important responsibility of government departments to provide adequate funding to support the research which underpins their policy objectives.

    I also recognise the importance of retaining the vital role of PSREs in providing the Government with independent advice on key issues such as public health, safety and security. It is paramount that commercialisation does not undermine this role, and this point will be well taken in developing the Government response to the Baker Report."

  6.  The figures in SET Statistics 2000 show the decline in departmental expenditure over the last ten years. (See Annex A for a more detailed analysis of the statistics on departmental funding.) It also shows (Table 3 in Annex A) that there will be a real increase in expenditure next year but that for defence this will not be sustained for the following year. (This coincides with the likely launch of privatised DERA). Although it is pleasing that the decline has stopped, at least for civil departments, funding will need to be increased further and sustained at a higher level if the damage done over the last decade is to be repaired and the new Government S&T strategies (see later) are to be effective.

  7.  In paragraph 1.22 the White Paper fudges the position of the UK in the International R&D funding league table. In fact it has declined from being near the top to being near the bottom of the international league table on most R&D funding measures. But it does recognise that the position of the UK is not good by comparison with its major competitors (see Table 8 in Annex A). It is therefore very welcome to see that the Government is not complacent on the issue. The recent investment in the science infrastructure already provides an excellent start in addressing the backlog but will need to be sustained at a high level if the UK is to remain internationally competitive. Research across G7 countries shows a statistically significant correlation between government investment in R&D and business investment in R&D where both are adjusted for the size of the workforce. So investment in both need to move together.

Funding Priorities

  8.  IPMS welcomes the thematic approach to priorities and in particular the recognition that "basic technology" is a key dimension of the Science Base. Highly skilled technical support, such as that found in research councils CCLRC and PPARC, is crucial. Along with this must go the recognition of the need for long-term and high quality staffing of technical support. In this regard we would draw attention again to the study by Dr Stephen Lipworth of the Royal Society on Technical and research support in the modern laboratory published in September 1998. The report said there was a real danger that any further decrease in numbers of core technical and research support staff, and the substitution of staff on short-term contracts will lead to a reduction in the quality of UK scientific research. It said that to achieve the objective of establishing and maintaining a "core" group with relevant expertise requires a career structure and training for all levels of technical and research support staff. The supply of such staff is also endangered by developments in PPARC where the cost of joining ESO is likely to result in cuts in ground based astronomy and its highly qualified technical staff in the UK and elsewhere.

  9.  We are concerned that although the "Science Budget" is generous for 2001-2004 overall it is below inflation in the first year. In the year 2001-02 the increases for research councils BBSRC, NERC, EPSRC and PPARC are below inflation. Indeed funding for PPARC and NERC will actually decrease during 2001-02 which is likely to exacerbate existing threats of redundancy. (See Annex A Table 2 for details.)


  10.  We are pleased to see the recognition of the key importance of people in the White Paper. It says

    "...the real core of the science base is people—teachers, students, researchers. 2. Government has a key role in creating Britain's basic scientific capability. Government is the lead investor in basic scientific research. Through education policy Government and the devolved administrations have a critical influence on the teaching of science. As an employer of thousands of scientists in public research laboratories Government influences the rewards available for science. Government needs to be an intelligent investor in science, determined to promote excellence and diversity and provide opportunities for everyone". (para 2.2)

  However, we are disappointed that very little mention of these issues are made in the key principles in Chapter 1. The action signalled in the White Paper does not match the analysis of the importance of the issue nor does it fully meet the identified need.

  11.  We are pleased to see that the White Paper does not take such a rosy view of the supply of S&T staff as the original consultation paper did. It recognises there are problems of supply and makes some suggestions as to how these should be tackled. But the "demand" side—the "intelligent investor" in science also needs to be addressed as well as the "supply side", a point which the White Paper recognises, for example, in paragraph 3.12 on "stimulating demand from business". As the above quote shows, the Government has a key role. For this to be performed effectively not only requires a specialist S&T "customer" capability within government, it also requires a much greater general awareness of S&T issues among "generalist" decision makers in many departments and a much better career path for S&T specialists to be promoted and recruited into these more "generalist" positions. Similar pathways are required in the private sector (paragraphs 27 and 28).

  12.  On the "supply side" IPMS welcomes the steps set out in the White Paper (2.8-14) to encourage more students to take up science as a career. We would like to see government and research council establishments playing a full part in these efforts as some already do and being provided with the resources to carry it out effectively. We also hope that government and research council staff will be able to act as science "ambassadors". Such "ambassadors" should also be fully reflective of the school population in terms of both gender and ethnicity. As the White Paper acknowledges there are still major problems in attracting women to science, particularly outside the life sciences, and there are also problems, although not covered by the White Paper, of low take up of science subjects by British Afro-Caribbeans which need to be addressed(2).

Academic Rewards

  13.  Just as important, however, is the issue of rewards. As the White Paper says "people who want to do science also need to be able to afford to do it". Poor pay and career prospects are an important disincentive to people to choose science subjects at university and to choose "core" science jobs once qualified.

  14.  The White Paper begins to address this in the university context with its proposals to increase the basic PhD stipend to £9,000 p.a. by 2004 and to launch a fund to assist in the recruitment of up to 50 leading researchers to compete in the world market for the best academics. But it says nothing specific about academic salaries (which have fallen 36 per cent since 1981) or other areas in the public services. For example, there are severe recruitment and retention difficulties among S&T staff in the civil service and research councils. Examples include BBSRC which has major problems in recruiting post-doctoral project leader scientists and where many scientific and support staff are leaving for better paid jobs in the private sector. Research councils and many government departments have difficulties in recruiting and retaining IT specialists. NERC has introduced special fellowships for research on the environment in order to address a shortage of environmental scientists with mathematical, computational and statistical skills. Nor is the private sector immune from these pressures as chapter 3 of the White Paper (3.15-16) shows.

Fixed Term Contracts

  15.  The White Paper recognises that fixed term contracts are a major disincentive too. While we welcome measures outlined in the White Paper (2.35) they do not go far enough. We know that Lord Sainsbury does not support the use of FTCs as a normal mode of employment and welcome his statement in the debate in the House of Lords on the White Paper that "As regards short-term contracts, we are keen to reduce their number. There is an initiative to introduce more long-term contracts in universities".

  16.  We would urge the Government to reflect this policy in their implementation of the EU Directive due to be implemented by July 2001 on which DTI is currently formulating its consultation paper. Our information from preliminary discussions is that the Government is considering excluding pay and conditions all together from the scope of the directive. We and other trade unions who have significant numbers of FTCs in science will be resisting such a move which would nullify any significant impact the directive might have.

  17.  We would also like to see redundancy "waiver" clauses outlawed. In the meantime, the Bett Committee (Independent Review of Higher Education Pay and Conditions) recommended that those on fixed term contracts of more than a year should be eligible for redundancy pay and the universities are being encouraged to adopt this. We would encourage research councils and government departments to do the same for their staff and to adopt the measures in paragraph 2.34 where they are not already doing so. Positive incentives similar to those which the White Paper proposes for universities would help to expedite the adoption of best practise.

Improving opportunities for women

  18.  The continued under-representation of women in S&T, particularly at more senior grades, is a longstanding problem and already well documented in 1994 in the Report "The Rising Tide"(3) produced following a government working group on which IPMS was represented. As shown in research by Fielding and Glover(4), women in S&T are likely to face gendered job ladders, lack of access to training, disregard by employers for equal opportunities, hostile workplace culture, and requirements for geographical mobility. The issue of work/life balance is a key issue and the "long hours" culture present in many jobs, particularly those at senior level, has its parallel in the "24 hours commitment" which is seen as the keystone of a committed scientist and relegates those who work part-time or want a reasonable work/life balance, whether they are male or female, to second class status. Women also tend to be over represented among FTCs which provide their own barriers to advancement such as the requirement in many areas that only permanent staff can bid for research contracts.

  19.  These points are confirmed by the recently published report Who Applies for Research Funding?, commissioned by the six research councils together with the Wellcome Trust. This shows that women are less likely to be eligible to apply for grants (except from the ESRC). Reasons why women apply for fewer grants include:

    —  staff at senior levels applied for more grants, but women hold just one fifth of senior posts

    —  full-time academics are more likely than part-timers to apply for grants and women are more than twice as likely as men to work part-time

    —  those with tenure apply for more grants—more women than men have fixed-term contracts

    —  women are less likely than men to be involved in high-profile research or to have a high publication record

    —  women receive less institutional support

    —  career breaks have a considerable impact on grant applications

    —  fewer women with dependent children apply for grants than men in the same situation.

  The report recommends a review of funding policies by the research councils and the trust, and urges universities to rethink their employment practices.(5)

  20.  The "Rising Tide" made many recommendations and established a Unit for Women in SET in the OST. Some progress has been made and several new initiatives started as the White Paper recognises, but as the research quoted above shows there is still much more to be done.

  21.  We welcome the new target of 40 per cent membership of SET related public bodies to be women by the year 2005 (2.38). Similar targets need to be established for senior positions in all organisations in both the public and private sectors. In the Civil Service a new impetus to the effort to achieve equality is being given by the "modernising government" programme and the fact that "a dramatic improvement in diversity" is one of the six key themes. The report to the Prime Minister by the Head of the Civil Service set out the following targets for the senior civil service objectives and targets with associated action plans in grades below that level are to be set by departments, with permanent secretaries accountable for delivery on diversity.

per cent
1998 (actual)
2000 (actual)
2004-05 (Target)
Ethnic Minorities
People with Disability

  22.  These targets refer to civil service staff as a whole, of whom SET staff are only a small minority. It is important that SET staff are fully integrated into the action programmes and that the statistics are made available to ensure that is the case. SET staff in general and women and ethnic minorities in particular should be fully represented in the drive to secure a service more open to people and ideas and which "brings in and brings on talent". IPMS has made detailed comments to OST on how these objectives would be achieved as part of their departments' S&T strategies.6

Attracting scientists and engineers to the UK

  23.  We have several comments on the proposals to enable overseas students to apply for work permits in the UK without having to return home first. (2.39). These are that:

    —  this should not be a substitute for solving the problem lying behind the reluctance of UK students to take up scientific careers;

    —  the issue of university fees is a further inhibiting factor for UK students (outside Scotland), particularly for lower income groups, and should be tackled as a priority. Even more worrying is the possibility that universities may charge students higher fees where graduates are expected to earn higher salaries such as engineering and technology. This could further exacerbate the problem of supply;

    —  there are also problems for British citizens previously resident abroad who can only claim UK rather that overseas fee rates if they have been resident for three years for non-study purposes; and

    —  there is a moral problem of potentially depriving poorer countries of qualified staff, especially if their government has provided the fees.

  24.  We understand from press reports7 that the White Paper proposal has been implemented and that the Government is examining whether the entire immigration system should be ovrhauled to help address the skill shortage in a more strategic way. While IPMS would support a more liberal approach to cross border mobility in general, we would urge that the whole range of issues oulined above should be reviewed in order to avoid new anomalies and to ensure that efforts to increase the supply of SET staff within the UK are not neglected.



  25.  We welcome the £15 million Foresight Fund (3.3) designed to aid technology transfer. This is particularly important in areas such as agriculture where small units predominate. However we are still concerned that employees are not sufficiently well represented on Foresight panels. For example the Food Chain and Crops for Industry Foresight Panel, during the presentation of its report on 6 December 2000 at the DTI, made a particular point about its lack of information on how to address the improvement of skill levels in the food chain and to make it a more attractive career. There were no trade unions or any other people who might put an employee point of view on the panel or any of its task forces to help address such questions, although nominations had been put forward. One of the recommendations of the Panel is that the DfEE should consider how to establish a Food Chain Skills Forum for targeted action to improve skills in the food chain. We would suggest that maybe union representatives might be included on this occasion; and included when the panels and task forces are next refreshed.

Universities in the knowledge driven economy

  26.  Our main concern as far as universities are concerned is that, as in the case of PSREs, the emphasis on commercial exploitation should not distort the core mission of universities in relation to basic research and teaching and that their "independence" and ability to disseminate knowledge freely in universities do not become too greatly inhibited. While the percentage of private industry expenditure taking place is currently only 7.2 per cent of the total on R&D, that figure already outstrips the USA where it is 5.8 per cent and although that might be a cause for congratulation as far as the White Paper is concerned, the balance needs careful monitoring.

Stimulating demand from business

  27.  The main challenge is to encourage businesses to recognise the value of R&D to their competitiveness and the White Paper identifies this is vital.

    "12. As well as universities reaching out and transferring their knowledge to business, we need more companies to use science and technology to create competitive advantage. Our record on this is still very weak. Too many of our companies still lack awareness of the need for change, or the ability to do so. In many industries we invest less in research and development than our competitors, and our companies are less ready to change and innovate than others. This is particularly true of large firms."

  28.  If the intelligent investor in R&D is to develop within companies, however, it is important to nurse internal SET talent. Outsourcing their R&D, as many companies do, will not help to fill that need.

Regional clusters and innovation

  29.  IPMS support the concept of clusters and the promotion of regional development and the importance of providing a "critical mass" of scientific activity regionally and locally and to build up links between universities, PSREs, RTOs and local business. Indeed the argument for building the new "Diamond Synchrotron" at Daresbury rather than Oxfordshire was that, the scientific argument for the two sites being equally balanced, the regional scientific impact at Daresbury would be much greater.

  30.  However, we are concerned that the establishment of a new Regional Innovative Fund will fragment funding further. The greater the multiplicity of funding sources, the more complex and resource intensive it becomes to administer and to access them. Much R&D is national and increasingly global in its implications rather than regional. We are therefore not sure that funding should be provided for R&D on that basis, or at least it should not be provided to the detriment of the overall level of funding of the science and engineering base.

  31.  The problem of fragmentation of resources into small packages to the detriment of more long term funding applies to the whole range of innovation funding. We agree that the programmes should be flexible and able to meet a variety of circumstances. But the schemes should be clearly explained, advertised, and accessible, preferably with a "one stop shop" approach, particularly for SMEs. It is essential, however, that those giving guidance are knowledgeable in depth about the schemes and the technology or have easy access to those who are. For SMEs in particular the delivery should be as simple and direct as possible.

Strategies of government departments

  32.  We are very disappointed at the almost exclusive emphasis on commercial innovation in the short reference which the White Paper makes to the need for and the role of government science and technology strategies. In paragraph 1.12 of the White Paper it says it is the Government aim "to allow scientific know-how to flow beneficially through to society, into business and jobs, and also into healthcare, public services and the environment". (our emphasis). But there is little acknowledgement of the latter in these paragraphs, nor is much attention paid to the importance of innovation and its diffusion from R&D in those areas unless they have a commercial application.

  33.  In fact the CST Report on "Scientific Activity Across Government", to which the White Paper refers, is primarily concerned with the decline in government capability in SET, of which industry and innovation strategies are only a small part. It says:

    "7. In the course of our review it became clear that overall the Government attaches considerable importance to the way in which S&T are used by departments. We saw examples of good practice in all the departments we visited, but we were not convinced that any department was really staffed, organised, or sufficiently aware to make the best possible use of science and technology in delivering their short and medium term objectives and targets, and in formulating their strategy for the longer term. We are concerned that the resulting weakness in their ability to understand, and to respond to, rapid change in the external work create increasing risk that wrong decisions will be taken, with potential for substantial damage and costs to Government and Society".(8)

  34.  This is partly the result of the continuous cuts in funding and staff over the last decade or so (see Annex A, Table 9). But also it is the result of privatisation and fragmentation which the CST Report acknowledges has cut off a major source of SET staff for core departments' policy making and other functions.

  35.  The Government held over the publication of its implementation plan for the CST Report's recommendations until the White Paper was published. In the comments which IPMS has put to the OST on how the recommendations should be implemented, we say that we hope that the CST report and its implementation will act as an important catalyst and counterweight in ensuring that the science strategies developed in departments do focus on the policy-making, regulatory and "quality of life" functions which in most cases are their primary missions and do not get completely hi-jacked by the commercial innovation emphasis in the White Paper. Also the required resources will need to be put in place for the science and technology strategies to be effective and to put right the losses to capability resulting from the previous policies of privatisation of PSREs and cuts in S&T funding. We agree with the view of The Royal Society that "It will be difficult to arrest and reverse this damaging drop in R&D expenditure unless each government department accepts that its policy objective depends upon a world class Science Base. Each government department should then include support for a world class science base in its Mission, and should invest accordingly"(9). Departments are due to produce their strategies by the end of 2000 for implementation in April 2001.

  36.  As far as the development of innovation and use of SET in industrial sponsorship are concerned we have made the point that at least one of the original chief scientist posts in the DTI should be restored, enabling them to concentrate on the role of SET in innovation and the major role which the DTI should play in this. This would also release the Chief Scientific Adviser in the OST/Cabinet Office to concentrate on general scientific advice to government and the co-ordination of SET policy across departments. The loss of SET numbers in core DTI and the privatisation of its four major PSREs (NPL, LGC, NEL and, Warren Spring), leaving small NWML (also recommended for privatisation on the latest quinquennial review) in-house has left DTI poorly equipped to lead on the innovation strategy as it should be doing.

  37.  The CST Report focuses on four government departments with the largest S&T expenditure in addition to the DTI, namely MOD, MAFF, DETR and DH and all of these either have (eg MOD and MAFF), or could have, a major industrial sponsorship role. In all these cases, however, there is a potential for conflict between the department's primary mission and the role of industrial sponsorship or "commercialisation". This has already caused major problems of alleged conflict of interest in MAFF, for example in relation to both BSE and GMOs and has the potential to do so in DETR and DH. It is vital therefore that mechanisms are in place to ensure that roles and lines of accountability for "quality of life" issues and for "independent scientific advice" are clearly distinguished from those for industrial sponsorship and that there is transparency in the decision-making process within and between departments and in government as a whole.

  38.  IPMS has highlighted this issue many times in evidence to select committees and in submissions to the OST and elsewhere. It also has held a conference on the issues of science advice and integrity(10). We are very pleased to see that these issues are now being tackled, and the prominence given to the issue in chapter 4 of the White Paper. We do, however, still have major concerns that the drive to "commercialise" PSREs and promote industrial innovation by departments may compromise their core missions if not carefully monitored and managed.

  39.  The White Paper quotes the example of the Defence Diversification Agency and its role in regional development. It is not clear how well the DDA will be able to fulfil its equal access for all regions remit; nor indeed what its remit will be in general after privatisation. It is not yet known whether DDA will stay with MOD or go with the privatised DERA. If the former, it is not clear how it would develop its links with industry; if the latter, what would be the incentive for a privatised DERA to build up its competitors. Whatever the outcome, it is important that it should be able to continue its "mission of providing a world class innovation brokerage service benefiting small and medium sized firms".

  40.  The White Paper mentions that under its Small Business Research Initiatives (3.33) it will be opening up to SMEs' R&D procurement programmes worth up to £1 billion with the target of providing £50 million worth of research under these programmes from small firms. Each participating department will aim to provide at least 2.5 per cent of their relevant requirements from small firms. It is not clear whether "new" money will be forthcoming for this but it is important that it does not divert further money from PSREs which are already under enormous funding pressure.

  41.  The emphasis on government departments providing S&T strategies makes it even more important that the "Forward Look" should be published annually alongside "SET Statistics" and that the statistics themselves should be more meaningful for monitoring and review purposes.

Intellectual property: changing the rules

  42.  The effective dissemination of research results for application or exploitation, whether this be for public or commercial purposes, is vital and IPMS fully supports the drive to ensure that maximum use is made of research results. We welcome the White Paper's recognition of the need to protect PSREs' and universities' objectives of "advancing knowledge and underpinning public policy". We agree wholeheartedly with the unequivocal statement that:

    "IP policy must not undermine these aims and issues like whether to disclose any results before patenting require careful consideration. Openness is paramount for research that supports public policy" (3.35).

  43.  In many areas of government and university research the scope for commercialisation of research output will by very limited. As shown in our response to the Patent Office consultation on "Intellectual Property in Government Research Contracts: Guidelines for Public Sector Purchases of Research and research Providers"(11), most departments' primary purpose is general research and policy support. For example, over two thirds of SET expenditure in MAFF and DETR and 100 per cent in the HSC is in support of policy. (See Table 6 in Annex A).

  44.  That said, IPMS accepts that PSREs should have an explicit mission to exploit IP generated in research where it is appropriate for them to do so. We have been actively involved in consultations on the Baker Report(12) which was published alongside the White Paper and on the new Codes of Practice governing commercial activity by scientific civil servants and will not repeat the points we have made in detail here. But there are several points, worth emphasising from our submissions in this context particularly on IPR.

  45.  IPMS agrees that public sector purchasers should have clear IP strategies and management plans. We welcome the recognition, both in the Baker Report and the Science White Paper, that additional resources will be needed to ensure that expert advice is available to all research purchasers. It is very important such advisory facilities are located within government and that they are properly resourced. Part of the remit should be to encourage the spread of good practice across the public sector. By contrast, private sector advice is likely to be both more ad-hoc and more expensive.

Balancing the needs of public purchasers' and "providers"

  46.  The guidelines note that the primary goal of research in advancing knowledge in pursuit of government policy, regulatory and other official objectives may conflict with exploitation activity. We agree and accept the need where possible for such conflicts to be resolved without damaging either goal. However, it may not always be possible to have a conflict resolution that meets all needs. The requirements for exploitation are very different to those for providing policy or regulatory advice. There must be a clear recognition that, in such cases, priority must be given to the primary goal of knowledge transfer and not to commercialisation.

  47.  We agree the need for a culture shift towards a general assumption that public providers such as PSREs should own their IP. The guidelines suggest that this should be subject to the public sector purchaser securing adequate freedom to use the results for its purposes. This strikes a reasonable balance, though the issue is wider than simply allowing purchasers to be able to use a specific piece of IP. It is also important that they should be able to retain "intelligent customer" capability in-house for future work. The guidelines take a more flexible approach than the Baker Report in recognising that there are causes where this will be appropriate and this is to be welcomed.

  48.  However, the guidelines' proposal that public sector purchaser should retain a strategic responsibility for monitoring the extent of exploitation undertaken by research providers does pose difficulties. Whilst recognising the need to assess how well the new arrangements are working, there is a danger that this provision will create a stick with which to beat research providers. Indeed the guidelines suggest that failure to exploit might be taken into account in the award of new contracts. There is a real danger that adopting a narrow financial approach will quickly lead to under-valuation of research for the public good that does not have immediate commercial potential. This could have serious long-term implications. Government is unlikely to prioritise its own investment in such areas of research. It will be much easier to justify funding for research where there is a clear route to exploitation.

  49.  These outcomes will only be avoided if there are clear objectives for monitoring, agreed measures, and a shared understanding of how the results of monitoring will be used. In the light of the recognition in the guidelines that exploitation of research is a secondary goal and there is not always a commercial market for the product of research, it would in any event be more appropriate to focus on the effectiveness of technology transfer rather than on the financial outcomes of exploitation. Research providers must be judged by the science they produce, which is their core function. Exploitation may in some cases be better progressed through a different mechanism.

  50.  The Consultation Paper from the Patent Office demonstrates that the process of devolving IP, while safeguarding the legitimate needs of "purchaser" departments, is far more complex than originally conceived by the Baker Report. For example it requires complicated licence rights, and suggests "march in" rights in the event of the failure by the provider to exploit research. Meeting these conditions may well involve a significant extra commitment of resources and it must be seriously questioned whether the benefits will outweigh the costs. It may be that a pragmatic case-by-case approach could better achieve the objective of promoting dissemination without the need to create a whole new legalistic system. Such an approach may work when applied to the commercial sector but it is much more difficult to define the "business needs" of government. The "business" of government is fundamentally different from that of a private company in at least two respects. Government must be able to respond rapidly both to meet unforeseen circumstances and changing political priorities. At the same time, it needs to take a long-term perspective beyond normal commercial timescales.

  51.  Nonetheless, if a decision is taken to proceed with this approach, there is no doubt that PSREs will require access to advice within government in order to successfully navigate the new requirements. Even so, the time and cost involved in obtaining advice may influence the viability of smaller projects. Granting perpetual licence rights may in some cases impede the process of exploitation, so there will need to be an appeals mechanism for research providers. Above all, any new arrangements along these lines must be regularly monitored to ensure that the benefit continues to outweigh the cost.

Openness and Publication Policy

  52.  The draft Guidelines state that underlying data and methodology of research used to support policy-making and regulatory decisions should be published. IPMS agrees that this should be the case and supports the May Guidelines on Science Advice. A strong lead is needed from senior levels within government to ensure that openness becomes the norm. Furthermore, it is important that information that is made available for public policy reasons is both widely accessible and meaningful to lay people.

  53.  The draft Guidelines also require PSREs to establish a publications policy and to consider results for patent protection before publication. This will change the ways in which public sector research providers currently work. For example, evidence from the university is that priorities and practices of researchers have changed and a whole new body of work has emerged simply to secure patent applications. In addition, competition between researchers has increased. Instead of seeking to be first to publish, publication is now being restricted until IP has been secured. This has had a consequential impact on the content of published papers with a growing tendency to exclude conclusions and speculation about future development as such material often become prior art for subsequent patent claims. Similar pressures are already evident in PSREs.

  54.  For example an IPMS survey of members engaged in R&D undertaken in February 2000 showed that 30 per cent of respondents had been asked to tailor their research conclusions or resulting advice, 17 per cent had been asked to tailor their work to suit the customer's preferred outcome, 10 per cent had been asked to do so in order to obtain further contracts, and 3 per cent has been asked in order to discourage publication. In addition a greater proportion of respondents found it difficult to maintain independence from their sponsor than found it easy(13). Serious questions must be asked as to whether such practices are in the public interest. But pressures to engage in them may be increased by adoption of the draft Guidelines. The recognition in the Guidelines that it may be necessary to treat commercially valuable results as confidential information shows that concerns about increasing control of the research agenda by sponsors are well founded. There is little doubt that in this context pressures to generate additional research will become the priority and that bland reassurances about the primacy of knowledge transfer will carry little weight.


  55.  IPMS welcomes the intention that the IPR Guidelines should apply to all public sector purchasers of research and research providers. We are strongly of the view that management of intellectual property should be covered by a UK-wide framework, though it will also be necessary to take into account the implications of the proposed common European Community patent (3.48). Care will also be needed to ensure that a level playing field is maintained in relation to exploitation of intellectual property rights (IPR) by private sector companies. The investigation by the Audit Commission of exploitation by PPL Therapeutics of gene transfer technology originally developed by BBSRC's Roslin Institute illustrates the potential pitfalls for the UK of an approach to exploitation that is more open than elsewhere in Europe or the USA.

Staff incentive schemes and management of conflicts of interest

  56.  The new OST Guidance on this subject provides a useful foundation, thought its operation will need to be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis. As set out in our response in the Baker Report, IPMS agrees that conflicts of interest must be managed on the basis of robust and transparent procedures based on active disclosure of interests, review of interests in terms of their materiality; and mechanisms to handle conflicts when they arise. We are aware that BBSRC has established a register of interests in all its institutes and that there is a widely drawn requirement on staff to provide details of any shareholdings in companies engaged in relevant activities. There is an active process of annual review and a procedure for joint review of potential conflicts of interest. We welcome this broad approach, though we would emphasis that conflicts should not be viewed solely in financial terms.

  57.  Steps should be taken, in consultation with trade unions, to encourage the adoption of similar provisions in other public bodies. These will need to be written in terms that are appropriate to the circumstances of particular organisations. The rules need to be made clear to all parties from the outset and should exclude longer term reward for individuals who have left the employment of the organisation before commercial returns are realised. The rights of individuals not to waive their rights to exploitation income should also be clearly stated. There will, however, need to be sufficient flexibility to ensure that intellectual input can be retained within the parent institute, and there should be a right of return for staff encouraged or required to transfer to spin-off companies.


  58.  IPMS believes that the restoration of public confidence in science and government's handling of scientific issues is vital to securing public support for the required investment in R&D and the "knowledge economy". IPMS has held conferences and contributed to consultations on the issues, including the latest one referred to in the White Paper on a Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees.14 IPMS has long advocated the need for greater transparency and dialogue in building confidence in science and innovation and generally welcomes the White Paper paragraphs on these issues.

An Independent and Transparent Framework

  59.  The structures and resources will need to be extremely robust especially since the areas currently likely to show greatest benefit in both economic growth as well as quality of life such as genomics also pose the major ethical and social dilemmas and in some cases risk. They will also require prioritisation in the face of limited resources for research exploitation which is a democratic as well as a technical issue. Moreover the process of creating an independent and transparent framework and the Government ensuring that "risks" have been properly assessed and controlled, and in communicating those risks clearly and simply, and at the right time (4.16), can be very resource intensive.

  60.  Thus, for example, in addition to the need for basic research (4.18), which is needed to cover both known and yet unknown sources of risk, there is the need for greater scientific research support in depth for scientific advisory committees so that they can test the evidence more thoroughly themselves. Whereas at the moment they are often highly dependent on evidence provided by companies' own researchers when testing the safety of products.

  61.  It is vital that committee secretariats are scientifically literate and that they are adequately resourced at all levels. The duties of secretariats extend beyond processing papers for committees. For example, they should be able to assess and advise on papers provided for committees. Secretariats have a key role in managing committee business, ensuring probity, and in providing a link back to policy makers in government departments. A useful framework is set out in the Medical Research Council's code of ethics for management and administration of scientific committees. The BSE Inquiry Report highlights the need for government departments to retain "in-house" sufficient scientific expertise to enable them to understand and review advice given by advisory committees (paragraph 1279).

  62.  The way in which committees use research will be critical in engendering confidence in their work. This may mean that more explicit acknowledgement needs to be given to areas of uncertainty and to communicating degrees of uncertainty in committee findings. It is clear that committee members should not use their position simply to "corner extra funding" for their research group or laboratory. However, it should be recognised that committee members may be drawn from centres of excellence which may be very well placed to progress research in specific fields. As is the case for appointment of committee members, it would not be in the public interest to ignore the best quality research providers. However, it will be necessary to have a procedure for managing conflicts of interest in such circumstances.

  63.  IPMS views on how conflicts of interest should be managed are set out in detail in our response to the Baker report. We believe that it is vital that all experts advising government declare their interests and that all advice is open and subject to scrutiny by others. This should extend beyond financial considerations, bearing in mind that in the public sector scientific advice fulfils a variety of functions not all of which have a clear commercial value. In such circumstances, a more positive and proactive approach to sharing of research should be promoted. Elsewhere, there is much to be learned from procedures and practices adopted overseas, for example in the USA. The principles developed in "Guidelines 2000" and the forthcoming Code for Scientific Advisory Committees should be applied to all scientific advice both at national, EU and international level, for example the Codex Alimentarius.

  64.  Greater transparency, inclusiveness and dialogue as advocated in the White Paper also have important consequences for scientific staff which go far beyond simply better communications, important though these are. Scientists involved in research which is of public interest or controversial, are being called upon already to justify their views and account for their actions in ways which are not always going to stick within the confines of "a mission to explain". Also they are exposed to danger from militant protesters in some areas.

  65.  As the BSE Inquiry has shown scientific professionals and advisors are being expected to give advice to administrators and politicians going well beyond their technical expertise alone. Many IPMS members involved as witnesses in the BSE Inquiry are extremely concerned at the procedures used in the inquiry such as the instant transmission on the internet of witness statements and its failure to take into account the broader political and civil service context in which their individual roles were played out. Recent press reports have also drawn attention to the fact that scientists are now much less willing to serve on the scientific advisory committees because of the high profile exposure and the broader role which they now appear to be expected to fulfil.

  66.  If transparency and dialogue are to be effective, therefore, attention needs to be paid to the training security, and rewards of those who are expected to play the new roles. But it is also important to consider how best to organise the process to ensure that they do not result in reluctance to take part and that the ground rules and criteria being used in any particular context are agreed and clearly spelt out.

12 January 2001


  1.  These references refer to paragraphs in the White Paper. Thus 2.17 means chapter 2 paragraph 17.

  2.  IPMS and the Science Alliance held a conference as part of National Science Week on the issue of "Science and Race" on 22 March 2000. The report is available from IPMS;

  3.  The Rising Tide: A Report on Women in Science, Engineering and Technology (HMSO, ISBN 0 11 4300968, 1994);

  4.  Gender and SET—Jane Fielding and Judith Glover (Findings from ESRC research project, 1994-96, reported to Science Alliance Seminar. "A Fair Deal for Women in SET 1998);

  5.  Quoted from a report in the Times Higher Education Supplement 22/29 December 2000 p.3

  6.  IPMS comments on the Government's Implementation Plan for the CST Recommendations in the Report. Scientific Activity Across Government IPMS 4 December 2000.

  7.  Immigration rules eased to counter skill shortage in Financial Times 18 December 2000.

  8.  Council for Science and Technology Review of S&T Activity across Government: HMSO July 1999

  9.  The Royal Society Developing a National Strategy for Science July 2000;

  10.  IPMS Conference on Scientists and Scientific Advice on Government Policy Making in October 1999. The report Oracles or Scapegoats is available from IPMS. IPMS with its colleague unions in the Science Alliance also held a seminar on "Is Whistleblowing in Science Really Necessary?" on 8 September 2000 as part of the BA Science Festival. A report of that event is also available from IPMS.

  11.  IPMS Submission to Patent Office Consultation on Intellectual Property in Government Research Contracts: Guidelines for Public Sector Purchases of Research and Research Providers. October 2000. Paragraph 1, p.3

  12.  Response by IPMS to "Creating Knowledge, Creating Wealth: Report by John Baker into Realising the Economic Potential of Public Sector Research Establishments". October 1999.

  13.  What Future R&D? IPMS Bulletin November 1999

  14.  IPMS response to OST consultation on a Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees November 2000.

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