Select Committee on Science and Technology Thirteenth Report


7 Co-ordination

Government departments

147. Several different Government departments share an interest in science and technology for development, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Office of Science and Technology (OST), as well as the UK Research Councils and the British Council.

Defra

148. Defra is the lead department for sustainable development policy across Government, but the DFID mission statement describes DFID as "the UK Government department responsible for promoting sustainable development and reducing poverty".[281] In addition, although Defra takes the lead in climate change policy for Government, the DFID Departmental Report 2004 identifies climate change as a "challenge that threatens the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals".[282] Clearly, good co-ordination between Defra and DFID is essential in view of the overlaps in their remits. Defra told us that there was "a regular dialogue between officials of the two Departments" on sustainable development and "Where appropriate, DFID officials join Defra led delegations to international meetings".[283] There is also now an inter-departmental Ministerial Group on Biodiversity, including Ministers from Defra, DFID and the FCO, to deal with cross-cutting international biodiversity issues and implementation of Defra's World Summit on Sustainable Development delivery plan on international biodiversity.[284] DFID is additionally represented on an official level international biodiversity group. Defra told us that these interactions with DFID were important for resolving "potential conflicts between the local requirements of developing countries and the wider global commitments and policies of the United Kingdom and the European Community".[285]

Darwin Initiative

149. Defra also funds and administers a small grants programme, the Darwin Initiative, which aims to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of resources in less developed countries. In 2004, a total of £1.1 million has been made available for funding new projects.[286] The objectives of the Darwin Initiative are listed below.Figure 4
Darwin Initiative: Objectives

To assist countries rich in biodiversity but poor in resources with the conservation of biological diversity and implementation of the Biodiversity Convention.

To draw on British expertise in the field of biodiversity.

Projects funded under the Initiative will be collaborative, involving either local institutions or communities in the host country.

Projects will have a real impact on the ability of the host country to meet its obligations under the Biodiversity Convention.

Projects will be of high quality and scientific (or other appropriate professional) excellence.

Whenever possible, Darwin funding will be used as a catalyst to lever additional funding for project work, which would not otherwise be forthcoming.

The outputs and outcomes from projects should be additional to that from work being funded through other mainstream environmental or research programmes.

Projects funded under the Initiative will demonstrate good value for money.

Source: Defra

150. Typically, projects last for up to three years, with the Darwin Initiative contributing costs of about £35,000 to £70,000 per year and matching funding being sought from a variety of bodies, businesses and trusts. The funding may be used for institutional capacity building, training, research, work to implement the Biodiversity Convention, and environmental education or awareness. In addition, projects must be collaborative, involving partnerships between UK institutions and developing country bodies. Some witnesses spoke highly of the Darwin Initiative. Dr Newton, for example, described the programme as "an outstanding success", and praised the "focus on training and capacity building as well as […] dissemination of results".[287] We believe that the Darwin Initiative represents a useful model for funding research and capacity building for development, although the relatively small size of the grants and lack of funding for overheads mean that it will not be universally applicable. We also accept that the focus of the Darwin Initiative on the utilisation of British expertise would not be compatible with DFID's policy on untying.

Hadley Centre

151. Defra also holds a Climate Prediction Programme contract with the Met Office Hadley Centre that includes a specific requirement to build capacity in developing countries to enable them to generate their own predictions of climate change for their country.[288] We commend Defra for the inclusion of a requirement for capacity building in its contract with the Hadley Centre and believe that all Government departments should incorporate capacity building requirements into their contracts for science, technology and research for development where appropriate. It is, of course, necessary to then provide adequate funding to support the capacity building activities.

FCO

152. The FCO science and technology network aims to inform British science policy by reporting on developments around the world; communicating UK achievements to other countries; encouraging international collaboration; and developing links and contacts for the benefit of the UK research community. The network is largely focused on developed countries "in order to enhance the UK science base and promote innovation and development of the UK's knowledge based economy",[289] but includes several positions in developing and transitional countries, such as Brazil, Mexico, India, Malaysia, South Africa and Poland.[290] Following a recent review, the FCO has identified the following as key international strategic priorities from a science and technology perspective:

  • promotion of UK economic interests in an open and expanding global economy;
  • sustainable development; and
  • security of UK and global energy supplies.[291]

153. The FCO has stated that it supports some science and technology capacity building in developing countries through, for example, the Climate Change and Energy Programme under the recently established Global Opportunities Fund, but none of the programmes includes a specific aim of building science and technology capacity.[292] In addition, the FCO has its own interpretation of capacity building, defining it as "a wide range of activities designed to strengthen other countries' ability to operate in ways which enhance global security or the UK's global economic interests".[293]

154. There is some overlap between the objectives of the FCO and DFID. For example, the FCO Strategic Priority for sustainable development includes "a specific aim for the FCO to support the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)" and the FCO has also suggested that there may be opportunities for collaboration with the US on capacity building, in view of the US State Department's increased interest in these activities.[294] Although the FCO stated that a "lack of resources" limited its "role in S&T capacity building",[295] the FCO also said that if there was an "over-arching UK strategy" on capacity building, it would ensure that the relevant mechanisms within the FCO were "well aligned to deliver on the science and technology capacity building agenda".[296] In addition, the FCO identified "engagement with big multilateral organisations" such as the UN Commissions, the World Bank and the OECD, as an area where it could "play a role in ensuring maximum effect for the UK position in those international negotiations".[297]

155. CAB International told us that "FCO policy and DFID objectives will not always fit well as political and diplomatic priorities change. Nonetheless, in regard to science there is a need for consistent long-term planning for what areas will be addressed in each country and a recognition of how science and technology can form an intrinsic part of building positive relationships between the UK and other countries through long-term partnerships with local institutions".[298] The Chairs of the Independent Programme Advisory Committees of the DFID RNRRS Programmes also commented that a number of their trainees had "progressed to include at least one president of a developing nation, as well as ministers and other high profile public figures" which provided "opportunities for generating 'good will' towards the UK that should not be underestimated".[299] There is clearly scope for better alignment and co-ordination of FCO and DFID activities. Although we welcome the willingness of the FCO to explore these opportunities, we regret the fact that this has not happened before. As well as co-ordination between the central Government departments, there is much to be gained from interaction between the FCO and DFID at country level. We were encouraged to see that the British High Commission and DFID Country Office in Malawi worked closely together, to good effect.

UK Trade and Investment

156. Despite the potential conflict between the DTI's focus on promotion of UK trade and industry and DFID's focus on international development and poverty reduction, there are areas where the interests of these two departments converge. For example, Professor Gaines, Strathclyde University, told us that there were "open-ended opportunities for the participation of British commerce and industry in poverty reduction and international development",[300] but, to his disappointment, "the idea that we should be collaborating in the excitement of designing, commissioning and operating sustainable factories that create no pollution, and little waste of any sort, has evidently failed to get through to the DTI".[301] It is significant that the DTI nominated UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) to speak on its behalf in this inquiry.

157. UKTI is the Government organisation that brings together the work of the FCO and DTI in supporting companies in the UK trading internationally, and overseas enterprises seeking to locate in the UK. UKTI's objective, set out in its Public Service Agreement, is to enhance the competitiveness of companies in the UK through overseas sales and investments; and attract a continuing high level of quality foreign direct investment:

  • to deliver a measurable improvement in the business performance of UKTI's international trade customers; and
  • to maintain the UK as the prime location in the EU for foreign direct investment.[302]

158. UKTI commented in its memorandum that it did not seek to "promote capacity building and research partnerships, though from time to time these may result from, for example, the transfer of technology or skills in an overseas investment or collaboration".[303] The UKTI Development Business Team aims to raise UK firms' awareness of the extensive opportunities available from aid-funded business and to help them access these opportunities. The Development Business Team works closely with Chambers of Commerce as well as with diplomatic missions overseas to help UK firms win a greater share of multilateral aid-funded business. The Development Business Team also liaises with all the main international aid-funding agencies including the World Bank Group, the European Commission, the UN agencies, the various Regional Development Banks and DFID.[304] It appears that there is room for improvement in the collaboration with DFID: Dr Peter Tibber, Group Director, International Sectors Group, UKTI, told us in oral evidence that "We talk to DFID in sectors that look as though they might be of interest. We have not done very much of that in the past. The dialogue has not been very productive".[305]

159. UKTI additionally has responsibility for taking forward the Government's international innovation agenda. DFID told us that the "issues identified in the Government's Investment in Innovation paper tend to apply with even greater force in developing countries".[306] However, it is not clear that UKTI is the most appropriate partner for collaboration with DFID on international innovation in view of the fact that Competing in the global economy: the innovation challenge defined UKTI's task as promoting a UK international innovation agenda "driven by the contribution it can make to wealth creation in the UK".[307] It is essential that DFID can benefit and learn from developments in thinking in other Government departments. The DTI has invested significant resources in strengthening its understanding of, and ability to promote, innovation in the UK. This knowledge could also be profitably utilised for informing the UK approach to development. Since UKTI does not seem to be a natural conduit for dissemination of this information to DFID, we recommend that the Director General of Innovation at the DTI takes responsibility for sharing this knowledge with DFID. The appointment of a DFID Chief Scientific Adviser should help to facilitate this process.

OST

160. The OST's International Directorate has two main objectives: "(i) to plan, develop and manage UK involvement in the European Union's science and technology activities; and (ii) to develop and strengthen such links with major scientific partners across the world, on a bilateral and multilateral basis, as hold the most promise of a scientific, commercial or political return to the UK".[308] With respect to the European Union, the Directorate's main activity is to oversee UK participation in the EU's Framework Programmes. In addition, the Directorate is responsible for UK involvement in the European Co-operation in the field of Science and Technology (COST). The International Directorate also manages government-to-government science and technology relations with countries and international organisations throughout the world. The role of the World Team is to co-ordinate the UK Government's policy interests in science and technology links with countries outside the EU.

161. Mr Maxwell from the ODI made the point that the problems facing developing countries "are not going to be solved and managed without a very serious research input which combines science and technology and social science, and that is something that needs to be very high on the agenda not only in DFID but also the OST".[309] We agree. Science and technology for international development should be a priority for OST and we congratulate Sir David King, whose personal input and enthusiasm have played a key role in moving this issue up the UK Government agenda. Possible weaknesses in OST support for UK researchers applying to the EU Framework Programme are discussed in paragraph 181, and interaction between DFID and the Research Councils is discussed in paragraphs 186-196.

British Council

162. The British Council's science sector has a global budget of £8 million, with dedicated science programmes in 62 countries, including 12 developing countries.[310] The British Council memorandum told us that "the two programme areas of the Council's science, engineering and environment sector deliver against the corporate objectives of i) increased scientific collaboration through the exchange of ideas, knowledge and information between young people in the UK and other countries, and ii) greater international awareness of the UK's role in scientific creativity and innovation".[311]

163. Activities relating to developing and transitional countries include the development of ICT-based Knowledge and Learning Centres, "which provide opportunities for on-line and video-conferencing access to global information and knowledge, particularly from the UK, for students and professionals of all disciplines".[312] Additionally, the British Council is delivering a major global campaign on climate change in 2004-05, with the objective of raising awareness and stimulating debate. The British Council also runs an International Network for Young Scientists (INYS), with the intention of "encouraging and facilitating the mobility of, and direct contact between, young researchers".[313] In 2003, INYS events on topics such as reproductive biotechnology and climate change were held in 17 countries, including China, Egypt, India and Zambia.[314] In addition, the Council manages the DFID's Higher Education Links scheme and the FCO Chevening programme (see paragraphs 118-124).

164. Despite the relatively small science budget of the British Council, several memoranda emphasised the key role of the British Council in representing UK science and technology in developing countries. Professor Gaines from Strathclyde University commented that "in practice it is the British Council that provides the gateway to British science and technology for developing and transitional countries".[315] For this reason, he believed that it was "essential that the British Council has a full-time Scientific Officer in each developing and transitional country".[316] The British Council told us that it "does not undertake centrally-driven audits of professional qualifications, preferring to devolve selection on the basis of generic and job-specific competencies, including strategic thinking, relationship building, entrepreneurship and scientific literacy".[317] The British Council should ensure that in future it also records details of the professional disciplines or qualifications of its staff. We believe that closer collaboration between scientifically qualified staff in the British Council and DFID Country Offices and the FCO science and technology network could yield mutual benefits and reinforce the UK's scientific contribution to international development.

Cross-Government co-ordination

165. It is apparent that there are opportunities for improving the effectiveness of UK spending on science, technology and research of relevance to international development through closer co-ordination between the relevant Government departments and agencies. DFID has understandably been cautious about associating itself too closely with departments such as the DTI and FCO whose objectives could potentially conflict with those of DFID. However, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) warned that the status quo, whereby "Most international interaction is stimulated by a 'bottom-up' approach of responding to opportunities, rather than following a coherent strategy" may offer flexibility but "can also be fragmented and short-term".[318] NERC believed that this reduced the "potential benefits to the UK arising from science in diplomacy, for example, through building long-term relationships with overseas nationals who may do post graduate or post doctoral studies in the UK" and was concerned about the fact that "longer-term benefits to UK trade of a strong British presence in aid technology projects is not seen as the direct responsibility of either the DTI or DFID in setting their departmental policy objectives".[319]

166. One of the most important Government co-ordination mechanisms for international science and technology issues is currently provided by the Chief Scientific Adviser's International Committee on Science and Technology (CSAIC). CSAIC, and a sister Committee, the International Science Technology Trade and Investment Committee (ISTTIC), chaired by the Chief Executive of UK Trade and Investment, were set up at the request of the Minister for Science and Innovation, Lord Sainsbury, in the summer of 2002.[320] CSAIC aims to provide strategic oversight and co-ordination of effort to: establish awareness of modern Britain as a world leader in science and technology; promote international research collaboration to the benefit of the UK science base and world science; and promote UK policy on issues with a science dimension. In pursuing its objectives, CSAIC focuses on activity in Europe, USA, Japan, Russia, India, China, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Canada and South Korea.[321]

167. It has recently been decided that CSAIC and ISTTIC will be replaced by a single committee, the Global Science and Innovation Forum. The terms of reference and membership of the new Forum have not yet been published, but it is likely that DFID, which joined CSAIC only recently, and Defra, which is not a member of CSAIC, will be amongst those represented on the new Forum. Although we welcome these moves to strengthen cross-Government co-ordination of international science and technology issues, we have reservations about the effectiveness of CSAIC and the Global Science Innovation Forum for delivering this objective. It is vital that DFID is integrated into the cross-Government science and technology machinery but it will also be important to respect the fact that DFID, unlike other Government departments, is uniquely focussed on international development rather than promotion of UK interests.

UK Funders' Forum

168. The Research Strategy announces DFID's intention to establish a UK Funders' Forum on International Development to "identify common opportunities with Research Councils and other government departments".[322] The Forum is also likely to include civil society and private sector representatives. Several witnesses have been supportive of the concept of a Funders' Forum. The Wellcome Trust said in its response to the Research Strategy consultation that it "would be enthusiastic to join the proposed Funders' Forum", but also suggested "a more defined focus" on health issues.[323] The Funders' Forum could be a very useful vehicle for promoting co-ordination of UK-funded research for development. In view of the large numbers of potential participants, we recommend that the Funders' Forum be subdivided by sector or theme to prevent it becoming too unwieldy. However, we remain highly concerned that DFID has not made sufficient provision for eliciting input from developing countries and do not see that the Funders' Forum as proposed will ameliorate this problem in any way.

Co-ordination with other international bodies

169. DFID also identified the need for better co-ordination between the activities of international donors in its Research Strategy.[324] This is in agreement with comments made in several memoranda of evidence. Macaulay Research Consultancy Ltd stated that "there is little doubt that the linkages between research funded by DFID (and other organisations) are, in some cases poor. There are many examples of DFID country offices being unaware of research projects that are being conducted in those countries. Often it is the research team that brings the attention of the project to the country office rather than DFID".[325] RCUK concurred, telling us that there was "considerable scope for pooling of resources and assessments of research requirements" and suggesting that DFID could "also increase its engagement with the international development programmes of the International Agencies, the European Union and its European partners" at country level.[326] The move towards direct budgetary support should facilitate co-ordination with multilateral funding agencies and other donors at the country level and we are aware that DFID has been promoting efforts to harmonise donor requirements for PRSPs. In addition, Stephen Biggs suggested that "Programme/project assessment methods that encouraged awareness of what others are doing and then rewarded relevant and useful partnerships would help to" address "the persistent problem of 'parallel' research and development strategies, programmes and projects".[327]

170. In Malawi we were disturbed to find examples of aid agencies managing research programmes in a way that caused further depletion of the already woefully inadequate human resources in the health service (see paragraph 143). Of the 480 nurses trained in Malawi last year, we were told that 400 were "missing in action" - that is to say, they were not employed in Malawi's public health service. As well as the nurses who had moved abroad or joined the private sector, we heard that a significant proportion of those nurses had been recruited by research programmes run by aid agencies. We visited various DFID-funded programmes where the nurses split their time between the programme and working on hospital wards, but in programmes managed by certain other aid agencies, nurses appeared to spend 100% of their time working for the programme. We heard, for example, repeated complaints from staff at Lilongwe Central Hospital and at other local health projects about the alleged practices of the University of North Carolina (UNC) in recruiting nurses for research projects without any prior consultation. (We also heard that UNC had not delivered a promised new laboratory at the hospital, but had instead installed this on its own premises.) In evidence to us, UNC stated that for the past two years, since it had been made aware of the acute nursing shortage, it had an "explicit policy to not directly hire any nurses from the public sector".[328] The hospital's Chief Nursing Officer has since disputed this claim and, while appreciating the assistance UNC undoubtedly gives the local health economy, says "it is high time we had a memorandum of understanding" governing how they should work together.[329] This surely is the way forward and, in view of the desperate crisis in human resources in health services such as Malawi's, donor practices which deplete front line services even further are impossible to justify. We were disappointed by the somewhat fatalistic attitude of the Secretary of State to such situations. He told us: "In the end each donor is responsible for what they do".[330] DFID should build on the international respect that it commands for promulgation of best practice amongst aid agencies. We urge DFID to speak out against any examples of poor practice that it encounters in science, technology or research for international development.


281   http://www.dfid.gov.uk/ Back

282   DFID, Departmental Report 2004, 2004 Back

283   Ev 324 Back

284   Ibid Back

285   Ibid Back

286   http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/latest/2004/darwin-040426.htm Back

287   Ev 122, para 6 Back

288   Ev 325 Back

289   FCO contribution scoping study: Science and technology capacity building in developing countries, particularly Africa, February 2004 Back

290   FCO, Science and Technology Annual Report 2003-2004, May 2004 Back

291   FCO contribution scoping study: Science and technology capacity building in developing countries, particularly Africa, February 2004 Back

292   Ibid Back

293   Ibid Back

294   Ibid Back

295   Ibid Back

296   Q 267 Back

297   Q 267 Back

298   Ev 163, para 2 Back

299   Ev 178, para 41 Back

300   Ev 188, para 5 Back

301   Ev 193, para 8.3 Back

302   Ev 322 Back

303   Ev 322-323 Back

304   Ev 323 Back

305   Q 274 Back

306   Ev 101, para 43 Back

307   DTI, Innovation Report: Competing in the global economy: the innovation challenge, December 2003 Back

308   http://www.ost.gov.uk/ostinternational/ Back

309   Q118 Back

310   Ev 318, 393 Back

311   Ev 319 Back

312   Ibid Back

313   Ibid Back

314   Ibid Back

315   Ev 188 Back

316   Ibid Back

317   Ev 393 Back

318   Ev 277, para 7 Back

319   Ibid Back

320   http://www.ost.gov.uk/ostinternational/world/2_2.htm Back

321   Ibid Back

322   DFID, DFID Research Funding Framework 2005-07, May 2004 Back

323   Wellcome Trust, Response to Department for International Development (DFID) Research Funding Framework 2005-07 consultation, July 2004 Back

324   DFID, DFID Research Funding Framework 2005-07, May 2004 Back

325   Ev 218 Back

326   Ev 266, para 22 Back

327   Ev 291 Back

328   Memorandum from University of North Carolina [not printed] Back

329   Memorandum from Lilongwe Central Hospital [not printed] Back

330   Q 570 Back


 
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