Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Royal Society of Chemistry


  The Royal Society of Chemistry is the largest of the scientific societies with a membership of 46,000. It is both a learned society and a professional body. The RSC was formed in 1980 following a series of amalgamations. It is incorporated by Royal Charter and is a registered Charity. A separate memorandum describing the activities of the RSC is attached.


  2.1  The RSC is charged by its Charter to:

    " . . . to serve the public interest by acting in an advisory, consultative and representative capacity in matters relating to the science and practice of chemistry". It is uniquely placed to do so as it draws its membership from all branches of the discipline and across the full spectrum of professional practice. Its members are individual scientists. The RSC has no corporate members, nor is it permitted to act on behalf of members as a trades union.

  2.2  The RSC provides advice and information to Parliamentarians in both Houses and of all parties through its Parliamentary Affairs Officer who operates a scheme that links Members of Parliament to RSC members resident in their constituencies (The Parliamentary Link Scheme) and also organises major scientific events in Parliament on behalf of the scientific and engineering community as a whole. Similar embryonic schemes are underway for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly in Wales. The RSC also provides expert advice to both of these bodies and hopes to extend this to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The RSC makes formal submissions to Government Departments and Agencies, provides members to serve on expert groups and gives informal advice through contacts between RSC staff and government officials.

  2.3  The RSC formulates its advice through networks of members with relevant expertise and its own information gathering. Members expect the RSC to provide information and advice and to do so without bias. The RSC's Council and governance structure provides quality assurance in this regard.


  3.1  The RSC's contribution to Public Understanding of Science pre-dates Science Week: the RSC has been promoting science with the public for many years: it has run Chemistry Week biennially since the early 1980s. These weeks consist of events that bring our members, and others in the chemical community into contact with the public through lectures, demonstrations, media events and visits. The RSC supports Science Week with local activities and is supporting Science Year. Through its members the RSC regularly provides information and activities for the public on topical science issues. Our nationwide programme of Chemical Landmarks celebrates the historical chemical events that have occurred in the country.

  3.2  The RSC acts a key information provider and source of expertise on scientific issues for the media calling upon our members, the resources of our extensive library and the wider chemistry community as appropriate. We are the first port of call on chemistry issues for the media.

  3.3  The RSC has led the way in providing promotional activities for science on the web. The chemsoc web site [] (and among its features the Visual Elements Periodic Table) has received worldwide acclaim for its beauty and its ability to promote chemistry to a non-science audience. The site itself is the leading chemistry site of its type in the world.


  4.1  The RSC's principal sources of income, all of which are applied to its charitable activities, are:

    —  membership subscriptions;

    —  publishing (substantially learned journals); and

    —  investments.

  4.2  From time to time the RSC is in receipt of relatively modest amounts of public funds (up to £100K) in the form of grants for specific projects. These are awarded following successful bids made in open competition.

  Most of these projects have been in education and training where the RSC is uniquely placed to bring all sectors of education and employment together.

  4.3  The RSC does not otherwise receive government funding nor does it consider that learned and professional societies should receive public funding for their core activities. Many bodies, including the RSC, act in an advisory capacity to government and view this as a core activity. It is essential that this advice is independent and seen to be so. Hence it is necessary that the bodies themselves, and any co-ordinating associations that act on their behalf should be financially independent of government.

  4.4  The RSC receives the usual benefits that accrue through its status as a charity and benefits in kind through use of part of Burlington House for its headquarters and library.

  4.5  The value of these benefits is more than offset by the contributions the RSC makes, in cash and in kind, through the voluntary efforts of the chemical community and to publicly funded activities. For example:

    —  the RSC spends £1 million per annum in support of chemistry teaching in schools;

    —  additionally, as the largest provider of inservice courses for chemistry teachers in the UK, an additional amount of £300,000 per annum subsidises course fees;

    —  the RSC's scientific journals rely heavily on volunteer effort. This and the RSC's pricing policy ensures that they cost substantially less than their commercial analogues, saving publicly funded libraries in the UK in excess of £1 million per annum;

    —  provision at a cost of over £500,000 per annum in Burlington House of one Europe's leading libraries for chemistry and an archive for important chemical collections that is accessible by all scholars and scientists; and

    —  the RSC has spent £600,000 over the last three years on the fabric of Burlington House over and above routine maintenance and running costs.

  4.6  A further example of the contributions in kind the RSC makes is the approximately 5,000 days per annum contributed by RSC members to supporting the teaching of chemistry in schools through lectures, careers advice, participation in Chemistry at Work events for schools and the numerous activities promoting science with the public.

  The Royal Society of Chemistry is both the learned society for chemistry and the professional qualifying body for chemists in the United Kingdom. It is one of the most prominent and influential independent scientific organisations in Britain. Through its 46,000 members, including academics, teachers and industrialists, the Society promotes the benefits of chemical science and the interests of chemists.

  As the professional body for chemistry in the UK, the Society is responsible for maintaining advanced standards of qualifications, competence and professional practice amongst chemists. The Society assesses and accredits degrees and diplomas in chemistry and related courses in British universities, and awards Chartered Chemist status.

  The Society plays a leading role in the science of chemistry, communicating cutting edge research and its applications through highly respected journals and a programme of international conferences, seminars and workshops. The Society actively promotes networking amongst the chemistry community through its specialist subject groups, Local Sections, Internet networks, industry-academia initiatives and other activities.

  The Society is one of the world's major chemical publishing houses with a wide range of primary, secondary, and tertiary literature, including research journals, abstracts and indexes, educational publications and computer-based information services. Revenue generated from these activities is ploughed back into chemistry and into the Society's services for members.

  The Society's educational activities provide information and training opportunities for both students and teachers. The Society is extremely active in determining the future of chemical education, seeking to influence Government by submitting evidence to Parliament and Government agencies, and anticipating developments in education policy.

  Strong ties are maintained with government both at national and at European Community level. Formal contact with parliament is maintained through the Society's two parliamentary advisers and through its Link Scheme, whereby members of the Society are linked with individual Members of Parliament.

  Achievements in chemistry are recognised by offering more than 40 endowed lectureships, medals and awards to those chemists who have made significant contributions to the advancement of a field of research. Some of the awards have industrial sponsors and many of the Society's awards are aimed specifically at younger chemists.

  Members of the Society benefit from a wide range of services, including an individual subscription to Chemistry in Britain, career management advice, discounts on books and journals and conference fees, access to subject-based networks, and free access to the Society's two web sites and

March 2002

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