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


Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from Professor Ian Halliday, Chief Executive, Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council

  I am writing in response to Guy Rickett's letter dated 19 November 1999.

To what extent has PPARC been involved in the EQUAL initiative?

  Our research community has had something to offer the EQUAL initiative, albeit we recognise we are minor players. Our executive involvement has included membership of OST's EQUAL Working Group and input to publications, documentation and briefings as required.

To what extent has EQUAL brought about new areas of PPARC funded research?

  Given PPARC's mission to support basic research in particle physics and astronomy, there are no new areas of PPARC funded research attributable to EQUAL. However, PPARC science underpins many industrial and medical technologies. The key software for the World Wide Web itself was originally developed at CERN; positron emission tomography (PET) and cancer radiotherapy all derive from techniques originally developed for physics research, and x-ray detectors designed for astronomy are being put to use in dentistry.

  PPARC has pursued an active policy of encouraging industrial application of its advanced technologies, primarily through the successful PPARC Industrial Programme Support Scheme (PIPSS), to support industrial collaboration with academic research. The social as well as economic benefits of the proposed projects are taken into account during the peer review assessment of PIPSS applications.

  PPARC is leading a cross-Council Foresight Associate Programme to identify future technology requirements across the whole science base including medical and other research relevant to EQUAL objectives.

  We are also working with other Research Councils to identify areas where our technologies can make a contribution to their programmes to promote EQUAL objectives. We have developed a joint fellowship scheme with MRC to enable our community to contribute to aspects of MRC research.

  Future development of PPARC's PUS programme will take into account its potential to contribute to the objectives of EQUAL.

Has the initiative identified and supported the most appropriate research areas for confronting the challenges of an ageing population?

  At an overall level this is inappropriate for PPARC comment. However, PPARC can contribute to EQUAL by bringing to a wider public—particularly those with more leisure time, such as the elderly—the interest and excitement of research in astronomy, space science and particle physics, using the latest telematic and multimedia techniques including the Internet. PPARC Public Understanding of Science (PUS) awards have included a Braille "Astronomy for the Blind" project, and remotely operated telescopes over the Internet.

How well is the initiative managed delivered and coordinated across Government?

  As a member of OST's EQUAL Working Group PPARC has been represented at meetings with other research councils and OST to discuss progress and future programmes under this initiative. Otherwise, as a minor player in EQUAL our lesser involvement means we cannot comment on the overall project management of the initiative.

  I hope this response is helpful to the Science and Technology Committee inquiry.

January 2000

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