Select Committee on Science and Technology Seventh Report


Departmental performance targets

1.  We recommend that in future the Department publish the technical notes with the Public Service Agreement itself. Doing so might prevent the impression that the targets are insubstantial (paragraph 8).

2.  We recommend that the DTI publish its Delivery Plan in full on its website, as well as the headline Service Delivery Agreement (paragraph 9).

3.  We recommend that the Department demonstrate its commitment to openness by publishing its Business Plan on its website (paragraph 10).

4.  We appreciate that it is not easy to encapsulate what a Department is expected to achieve in a few clear and measurable targets, and the PSA targets for science and technology are not a bad effort. However, they are far too general and high-level to allow judgement of OST's performance. ... We believe that OST should be more open about its detailed performance targets and intend to pursue this with the Department (paragraph 11).

5.  The proliferation of documents and acronyms - PSAs, SDAs, Technical Notes, Strategic Frameworks, Delivery Plans and Business Plans - is highly confusing to the outsider. We recommend that the Government rationalise these publications, for the sake of greater clarity and transparency (paragraph 13).

Departmental Annual Report

6.  The present lay-out of the DTI Annual Report makes it difficult to distinguish clearly between the activities and expenditure of OST and those of other parts of DTI (paragraph 14).

7.  We recommend that OST consider publishing an annual activity report of its own. If it does not, we recommend that there should be a self-contained OST section within the DTI Annual Report (paragraph 16).

8.  We regret the loss of financial detail in the Departmental Report, and the further proliferation of documents, though we accept that the readership for the more technical financial tables will be small. Departmental Annual Reports are a valuable source of factual information and a crucial element in Departments' accountability to Parliament: they must not become merely a glossy presentation of the Department's activities and aspirations (paragraph 17).

Spending Review 2002

9.  OST's figures show an increase in the Science Budget of £660 million from 2003-04 to 2005-06. ... The increase in the Science Budget brought about by the Spending Review 2002 is more accurately represented as £660 million, not as £890 million. The way in which the Spending Review White Paper presents the increases to science spending is misleading and leaves the Government open to accusations of double-counting (paragraph 21).

10.  The additional funds for Research Council programmes are very welcome, though the emphasis on funding of new science gives us some concern: valuable existing programmes must be maintained too (paragraph 23).

11.  We intend to take evidence from the Science Minister in November 2002, when the Science Budget allocations have been published (paragraph 24).

Higher Education funding

12.  We welcome the additional funds for research infrastructure announced in the Spending Review and the fact that it will be provided through an ongoing capital funding stream, which should facilitate long-term planning (paragraph 25).

13.  We also welcome the increase in resource funding for higher education research, which will go some way towards remedying the longstanding imbalance in the dual funding system ... Much depends on the outcome of the DfES's current review of higher education strategy which the sector awaits with trepidation (paragraph 26).

Departmental science budgets

14.  While the Science Budget, and to some extent the Higher Education budget, has done well out of the Spending Review, its impact on the science and research budgets of other departments remains to be seen. ... We welcome the steps being taken by Government to improve the quality and fitness for purpose in scientific research by departments. It must also ensure that this research is adequately funded (paragraph 27).

Cross-Cutting Review

15.  We are pleased that the Government has now published the Cross-Cutting Review of Science and Research in full. It is a very useful document and we find it hard to understand why it was not published at the time of the Spending Review. We recommend that the Government publish such important policy documents in future, without waiting for prompting by our Select Committee (paragraph 28).

Transparency Review

16.  It is ironic that it has taken so long to bring transparency to the Transparency Review (paragraph 29).

Responsibility for science policy

17.  We welcome the close interest being taken by the Treasury in science and engineering, particularly since this has led to additional funding, but responsibility for policy-making in this area must lie clearly with the OST (paragraph 30).

European Union funding

18.  We recommend that the OST carry out a detailed analysis of the costs and benefits of the Framework 5 programme to UK science, and that this analysis be published (paragraph 31).

19.  The European Framework 6 programme is responsible for the outlay of considerable sums of public money: the UK Government must monitor it closely to ensure that the commitment to more efficient management is achieved in practice (paragraph 33).

DTI restructuring

20.  We intend to take evidence from the new Director of Innovation at DTI at an early opportunity. It will be essential for the new Innovation Group to work very closely with the OST, if it is to achieve what was intended (paragraph 35).

Arts and Humanities Research Board

21.  We welcome the proposal for an Arts and Humanities Research Council under the OST and will be following developments closely, as this change has considerable implications for the future of OST and its place within Government (paragraph 40).

Council for Science and Technology

22.  We share the view of our predecessor Committee that the work of the Council for Science and Technology should be better publicised (paragraph 42).

Cambridge/MIT Institute

23.  We welcome OST's decision to commission an independent evaluation of the Cambridge/MIT Institute and recommend that it be published when complete. ... The decision to fund the CMI, made outside the usual Science Budget allocation process, is somewhat curious, and we intend to ensure that its effectiveness is monitored (paragraph 48).

OST resources

24.  We hope that the Department will recognise the value of effective scrutiny, and ensure that OST is resourced appropriately to meet the reasonable demands and expectations of Parliament (paragraph 49).

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