Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)


  1.1  The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is the pre-eminent independent professional body and learned society for an integrated approach to environmental management. We have a global membership comprising scientists, engineers, ecologists, biologists, managers and environmental professionals from many other disciplines. CIWEM members play a key role in achieving the goal of a sustainable environment and the advancement of environmental affairs—they are required to conform to this Institution's Code of Environmental Ethics. CIWEM is a constituent body of the Science Council and services the Science Council's "Science in the Environment Group". This Institution is also a "Nominated Body" of the Engineering Council UK and licensed to award the qualification and designation "Chartered Engineer". We are one of a small but unique group of professional bodies that embraces both science and engineering disciplines. CIWEM is currently engaged in the establishment of an umbrella body of environmental institutions and learned societies and we are in discussion with the Privy Council about a Royal Charter for this new body.

  1.2  This Institution was founded in 1895. It is a registered charity and is funded through membership subscriptions and income from conferences, sale of publications, donations and training initiatives etc. CIWEM does not receive any form of direct Government funding and is entirely self financing.

  1.3  This Institution welcomes the Science and Technology Committee's Inquiry into the funding of Scientific Learned Societies. We hope that it will lead to a more transparent, rational and equitable approach to future funding as this has been a matter of concern to CIWEM for some time. This Institution is pleased to offer this text as CIWEM's contribution to the Committee's Inquiry and we would be pleased to give oral evidence if invited to do so.


  2.1  CIWEM urges Government to continue funding independent Learned Societies (but refrain from the "patronage" of a select few). They perform an important role in society, regulate the professions they serve and are an authoritative source of objective advice.

  2.2  CIWEM urges Government to review the regime and criteria for funding Learned Societies and to create a new funding framework. Such framework to take account of:

    (a)  the extent to which a body is financially sustainable and self supporting;

    (b)  a body's policies in relation to inclusivity, gender, race, age, sustainable development and ethical behaviour.

  2.3  CIWEM takes the view that funding criteria should be based on principles of "additionality" with Government funds supporting new work and not the core activities or overheads of a Learned Society.

  2.4  CIWEM believes that funding should be conditional and justified by a three or five year Business Plan. The Plan should include targets, performance indicators and a methodology that will enable Government to assess performance against the Plan and the achievement of value for money, annually.

  2.5  CIWEM urges Government to consider a much broader range of Learned Societies for allocation of funds using a set of criteria which is fair, open and transparent embracing value for money tests.

  2.6  CIWEM urges the Government to support and incentivise closer collaboration between Learned Societies that share a common remit—in particular the emergent over arching body for environmental institutions (currently operating under the working title of the "Chartered Umbrella Body for the Environment"—CUBE) and the Science Council.

  2.7  Learned Societies with a Royal Charter must demonstrate that they are meeting their Charter commitments to qualify for Government funding.


  3.1  In considering CIWEM's position on the funding of learned societies this Institution has identified three key issues. These are:

    (a)  The Role of Learned Societies—affirmation;

    (b)  Government Funding—a framework;

    (c)  Learned Societies—the case for widening access to Government funds.

  3.2  For the purposes of this evidence CIWEM's definition of "Learned Society" includes any independent learned society or professional body that is either a registered charity or holds a Royal Charter or, of course, is both a charity and holds a Royal Charter. We specifically exclude those bodies which hold political or commercial affiliations.


  4.1  Learned Societies and professional bodies perform a unique role. The majority are independent of political and commercial interests and rely on the voluntary efforts of their members who do what they do for altruistic reasons. They care about their profession and are committed to the common good. Therefore, these learned bodies play a critical role in providing independent expert advice to Government and others, regulation of the profession and professionals they serve, education and training, professional development, research and much more besides. They provide a platform for objective debate on the critical scientific and technological issues of the day and the very best are forward thinking, providing innovative solutions to pressing social and scientific needs. CIWEM suggests that if Learned Societies did not exist they would have to be invented or, Government itself would have to perform many of the functions they now provide.

  4.2  CIWEM is aware that successive Governments have expressed a view that there are too many bodies serving similar professional interests leading to conflicting advice and duplication of effort. The need for closer collaboration of Learned Societies to create a single authoritative voice has, to some extent, been heeded and there is now a Science Council which acts as an over arching-body for science-based Learned Societies and professional bodies. Launched by Science and Innovation Minister, Lord Sainsbury, in 2000, it is anticipated that the Science Council will fulfil its objective and become a respected and authoritative voice for the science community on cross cutting scientific issues. Similarly, CIWEM is currently working with nine other environmental institutions and Learned Societies to create a federation for the breadth of environmental affairs and disciplines. Our aim is to co-ordinate our activities and speak with authority to Government and the public on environmental affairs. This is an initiative which has been widely welcomed across Government, by the Environment Agency, employers and the environment profession at large. The Steering Group driving this development aspires to create a new designation of "Chartered Environmentalist", or similar designation, for appropriately qualified and experienced environmental practitioners.

  4.3  Initiatives that lead to collaboration between Learned Societies are to be applauded. They deserve Government support since it is Government that will be a key beneficiary. The process by which Government is informed and advised, under such arrangements, will rationalise the consultation and advisory process. CIWEM urges the Government to consider incentivising any cluster of Learned Societies, that share common aims and objectives, in order to encourage them to co-ordinate their activities.


  5.1  CIWEM believes that Government should continue to fund Learned Societies—many of them continue to make a tremendous contribution to the health, wealth, culture and standing of this country. They also make a significant contribution to the advancement and application of science and engineering for the public benefit. Much of this excellent work is undertaken by members of Learned Societies on a voluntary basis and CIWEM believes that so much more could be achieved if some of the available (or any additional) funding was directed to those bodies who currently do not benefit from Government support. That only a select few Learned Societies receive Government support represents an opportunity lost. CIWEM believes that there is an urgent need to review the current funding structure and to establish a new framework for funding based on merit, value for money and sound management principles. For example, funded bodies should demonstrate that they are inclusive and have policies in relation to gender, race, disability and age. They should also show that they are committed to sustainability and operate within an acceptable Code of Environmental and Social Ethics. Such bodies should be open and inclusive committed to outputs and outcomes which serve the public good and known social priorities.

  5.2  Government funding should be conditional and relate to a prescribed programme of activities, targets and performance indicators which show how a funded body is contributing to innovation, excellence and a better public understanding of science and engineering. We also advocate that a Learned Society be required to submit to Government a three or five year Business Plan justifying initial and continued funding. Such bodies should report, annually to Government, on actual performance against the Plan.

  5.3  Those bodies, like CIWEM, which carry a Royal Charter should also be able to demonstrate total compliance with the terms of their Charter in order to qualify for Government funding.

  5.4  CIWEM understands that, in any new framework for the funding of Learned Societies, Government may not wish to underwrite core activities and overheads. This Institution certainly believes that such bodies should be self financing and that Government funding should be provided on the "additionality" principle. That is, funding should support projects and initiatives that a Learned Society could not otherwise fund from its own resources but for which there is a demonstrable need. Government funding of these "value added" projects should, by definition, lead to innovation and better practice, have measurable outputs, be demand led, meet social priorities and offer better value for money than the current funding arrangements.


  6.1  Currently, only a small proportion of Learned Societies receive Government funding. This seems to be based largely on historical practice and discounts the potential of many other Learned Societies to contribute to social and Government priorities. Many of the bodies that do not receive Government funding could easily make a case for doing so. The fact that there is no obvious mechanism for accessing available funds is unfair. It discriminates against those Learned Societies with an excellent track record of achievement in favour of an elite few who are effectively "subsidised" by the taxpayer and who do not necessarily represent the views or activities of other bodies.

  6.2  The current funding regime is not only discriminatory it is exclusive in nature and should be changed. It perpetuates a tradition which is no longer relevant in a modern more accountable world where greater transparency is, or should be, the norm. The Government funding and "patronage" that certain bodies now enjoy may have been appropriate one and two hundred years, or more, ago but a modern world with a different ethos and culture demands that the reasons for continuing with that approach are vigorously tested. Other learned bodies must be allowed to make their case. This is basic good public governance and should be regarded as part of the modernisation of Government.


  7.1  CIWEM applauds this Inquiry—we believe that it is long overdue. We urge the Government to continue to fund Learned Societies but within the context of a new funding regime and framework. This Institution advocates a system which is modern, inclusive, transparent, encourages outputs that meet social priorities and recognises the potential contribution of all Learned Societies to the improved health, culture and economy of this country.

  7.2  In supporting a new and fairer funding system for Learned Societies we advocate that such funds should not be used to underwrite a body's core activities or overhead costs. We firmly believe in the principle of "additionality" with funds being used for specific initiatives that are relevant to social and Government objectives and that a body would not otherwise be able to undertake. All bids for Government funding should be supported by a Business Plan showing measurable outputs.

  7.3  Finally, CIWEM urges Government to encourage those Learned Societies, that share common aims and objectives, who wish to work co-operatively in clusters or partnerships. It is in Government's interest that Learned Societies come together and speak authoritatively with one voice and reduce the incidences of repetition and duplication of effort. The funding mechanism could be used to offer incentives for so doing and support, for example, the current initiative to bring together the many environmental Learned Societies and Institutions which exist.

March 2002

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