Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380-399)|
9 JUNE 2004
Q380 Mr McWalter: Each flooding system
has a different geology and different flow characteristics, and
a whole range of different new issues get raised if someone is
working in the field as opposed to sitting in Imperial College
designing mathematical models. Is there not something to be said
for that kind of research as well?
Professor O'Reilly: Yes, there
is, and that is what I meant by saying it is a relevant and an
appropriate case study that would link into the generic research
that the EPSRC would more reasonably fund. It is not an irrelevance,
it is not a lack of interest in any sense whatsoever; it is: "Where
do we fund research and whom do we fund?" We primarily fund,
as you know, researchers in the UK, and the problems they address
are basic, strategic and applied research. It is in that last
end of those where the case studies are likely to be
Q381 Dr Iddon: Would you be concerned
to learn that some witnesses have told us that they do not think
your research council is interested at all in the developing world?
Professor O'Reilly: I would like
to explore what they mean. I am concerned of course by the statement
but I think we would need to unpick it and see what it means.
A lot of EPSRC research is extremely relevant and there are interactions.
Q382 Chairman: That is really what Sir
Keith O'Nions saysyou must have read it: "Given that
Research Councils are the bodies that are funding the greater
part of the basic science and most of the applied science in the
UKand therefore have access to a massive part of our intellectual
wealth and scientific wealthand if government policy is
calling for that to be deployed progressively in international
development, they must have a part to play."
Professor O'Reilly: I think that
is perfectly reasonable, Chairman. I consider that to be compatible
with what I have been saying.
Q383 Chairman: You are not doing it.
We want to know why.
Professor O'Reilly: Let me be
very clear, Chairman. EPSRC is funding substantial work that is
relevant to the developing countries. The researchers that we
fund are involved in collaborations and are engaging people in
the developing countries, but the nature of the research that
we support is more of the generic nature, and then the developing
countries provide one set of case studies, just like the Thames
Valley might provide another set of case studies. Mr McWalter
is absolutely right, these are different, and it is very helpful
to have the different perspectives that help to test the models
and so on, but that is the nature of the collaborations that go
Q384 Chairman: Let's hear from Andrew
Cotton and Peter Cameron at this stage.
Dr Cotton: My response to your
initial comments is that, rather than there having been nothing
going on within DFID, it is a question of visibility and profile
of engineering and technology based work within DFID. There has
been a very innovative Knowledge and Research Programme in what
used to be the engineering division in DFID. I would say the issue
is the prominence that gets within DFID as an organisation and
the way the outcomes of that work do or do not get fed through
to country assistance programmes. With the restructuring of the
policy division, there is the potential now, through dealing with
research in a much more central fashion, actually to build synergies
that my personal view would say were not there in the past, where
you had quite different streams of research going on with different
Q385 Dr Iddon: Is that integration the
Dr Cotton: No, sorry, I am talking
about within DFID itself, within the different sectoral programmes;
for example, health, economics and social science and engineering.
Q386 Chairman: What do you think of EPSRC?
Dr Cotton: Coming from an institute
which works totally in development, we do not interact with it.
Q387 Chairman: You have never had a research
council grant from EPSRC?
Dr Cotton: We have not in my centre.
Q388 Chairman: Have you ever applied?
Dr Cotton: We applied quite a
long time ago. One of the reasons for not pursuing that was that
we are basically a self-funding unit and when there are other
research programmes, for example the DFID research programme or
through the World Bank Water and Sanitation Programme, on which
it is much easier for us to focus our proposals, then we choose
Q389 Chairman: I put it to you that you
know quite clearly that EPSRC do not do development, so you do
not bother. Is that what people say on the grapevine?
Dr Cotton: I will only answer
that from my own perspective.
Q390 Chairman: Yes, that is what you
Dr Cotton: That perspective is
of somebody who is working within an academic institution but
whose primary focus is on the application of findings to Millennium
Development Goals, to poverty eradication. From that point of
view, it is very much the development end of research and development.
So, from that point of view, it is an issue for me about personal
interest and interest of the other staff in the institution in
which I work.
Q391 Dr Iddon: Could I come back to EPSRC
for a moment, and ask John: Do you have any interaction with DFID
Professor O'Reilly: Yes.
Q392 Dr Iddon: At what sort of level?
Professor O'Reilly: They are on
the scale of exchanging information and awareness more than collaborative-funding
of research at this stage.
Q393 Dr Iddon: Is that in meetings? Is
it formalised in any way?
Professor O'Reilly: There have
been meetings, as you know, through two main programmes from the
EPSRC perspective. One is the programmes, the programme managers
and their teams, in terms of interactions and meetings. The second
is that EPSRC has over recent years developed a policy of sector
teams which look at different relevant sectors, and some of the
DFID interests would fall into those sectors. So it is two different
ways of getting a perspective. That is the sense in which the
development perspective sits alongside those things which are
within the UK and so on, and we debate together on them.
Q394 Dr Iddon: Would DFID know of all
the research that EPSRC are funding that might be relevant to
Professor O'Reilly: I cannot speak
for DFID in terms of what they would know. I can say that they
have access to it. We provide that information and, more recently,
in some of the interactions, we have drawn to their attention
the power of our browsing facilities of our database and have
had discussions about sharing that information more intimately.
Q395 Dr Iddon: Have you thought of developing
a concordat, like the MRC have developed a concordat with DFID?
Did you know they had a concordat?
Professor O'Reilly: I am not at
all surprised that MRC had. Although I did not know this specifically,
I would expect them to. EPSRC does have concordats with many organisations,
and we have had those discussions with DFID as to the extent to
which that would be appropriate and are very open to moving forward
in that way.
Q396 Dr Iddon: Has your connection with
DFID been long-standing or has it come about as a result of recent
reforms in DFID?
Professor O'Reilly: There are
two sorts. There are some long-standing interactions, and those
are the less formal onesalthough I believe they have been
very effective. In terms of flooding and in terms of earthquake
engineeringwhich, incidentally, is an example we have not
touched on, Chairman, where there are very substantial EPSRC-funded
interactionsthen I think there have been but those have
tended to be on an individual topic basis. You are right, of course,
that the recent reappraisal provides the possibility of a more
formalised framework, and we would be very happy to move forward
in that way.
Q397 Chairman: Peter Cameron, you have
sat here very patiently. What would you say about interaction
with EPSRC? What would you say about DFID's changes?
Mr Cameron: Let's go back to the
DFID changes and how we see DFID. I think, with some apologies,
in a way, the paper that we submitted to you does appear to be
fairly critical of DFID, but it is, I suppose, as a result not
so much of saying "you are not doing anything" or "DFID
are not doing anything" but that there is an awful lot still
to be done and we cannot just relax. We were very excited when
DFID produced its Making Connections paper. That is seen
to be really attacking the whole root of the world poverty issue
and highlighting where the engineering and other sectors need
to be focusing, and it stressed the need for very clear, very
good infrastructure provision. Delighted as we were to take part
in the organising workshops for the Applied Technologies to
Improve Livelihoods papers that DFID organised in order to
formulate their new engineering strategy, a frustration for us
was that we were tended to be warned off the word "infrastructure"as
though: that has been done, you have been there, you do not need
to do any more about thatwhereas in engineering terms,
simple engineering terms, infrastructure is so fundamentally important
that we must not take our eye off that ball at all. Allied to
that, we do recognise there is a lot going on within DFID. A lot
of very interesting research projects are being done, a lot of
good work. I suppose really, in short, we want more and more of
Q398 Chairman: Has the amount gone down,
do you think, that DFID has been investing in these enterprises?
Mr Cameron: We are slightly disappointed
with the paper that came out, that the engineering aspects would
be evaluated and thought through, and no real strategy for developing
that, and that was indicating a slight downturn against other
areas which were increasing. But that is looking at the industry
as a whole. ICE does not normally receive or seek funding from
DFID and, therefore, in that respect. we are probably not able
to talk very much about how DFID is funding researchalthough,
of course, it has made a major contribution to our project of
Engineers Against Poverty, which is the group formed out of the
Telford Challenge, and now we are looking at a new development,
Engineers Without Frontiers, which is looking at how the engineering
profession can make a major contribution. With that, obviously,
we will be looking to strengthen the existing ties with DFID.
Q399 Chairman: Do you know our man in
Malawi, for example?
Mr Cameron: I do not.