Select Committee on Science and Technology Thirteenth Report


9 Conclusion

203. DFID has an excellent and well-deserved reputation in international development. Despite this, we have found clear deficiencies in its approach to science, technology and research. We are encouraged by the willingness displayed by DFID, under the leadership of the current Secretary of State, Mr Benn, to take on board the criticisms made during this inquiry and acknowledge the recent developments in DFID that have been undertaken with the intention of strengthening its handling of science and research. However, we have concerns that DFID, in its haste to resolve areas of difficulty, may be underestimating the nature of challenge. DFID staff need to recognise the cross-cutting, underpinning qualities of science and technology and the contribution that they can make to international development: science should play a far greater role in influencing DFID policy development than has been the case so far. In addition, DFID's failure to fully appreciate the value of research has sometimes undermined its ability to undertake evidence-based policy making. Surmounting these difficulties will require a change in culture, not just a change in policy. We believe that the appointment of a CSA with the right credentials will be an important first step that should have a very positive impact on DFID's treatment of science and research.

204. The strength of the UK's reputation in international development has enabled DFID to adopt a leadership role in the international donor community. DFID, regrettably, has been slow to acknowledge that the quality of UK research has contributed greatly to building the UK's reputation in international development. There is now an urgent need to improve the status of development sciences research in the UK and for somebody in Government to take responsibility for UK research capacity in this area. For many scientific disciplines, the applied nature of development work has made it the poor relation. We propose the establishment of a Development Sciences Research Board to expand the research effort towards poverty reduction and to ensure the preservation of the UK development sciences research base.

205. As Rothamsted Research told us, "Poor countries do not deserve poor science".[399] The UK Presidencies of the G8 and EU in 2005 provide a unique opportunity for the UK to galvanise global support for science and technology capacity building and strengthening of the research effort required to make effective progress towards the MDGs. An increased focus on the value and importance of science and technology for international development could also have a positive impact on the appeal of science and technology qualifications in the UK, attracting students who are motivated by the idea of helping to solve global problems and contributing to poverty reduction. This, in turn, serves to illustrate the fact that international development can indeed deliver benefits to both North and South.


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