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Select Committee on Science and Technology Eighth Report


Summary


This inquiry is part of the Committee's rolling programme of scrutiny of all seven Research Councils. We examined the CCLRC in the context of recent changes in its role following its first Quinquennial Review. We looked at its strategic advisory role, its performance in providing access to and maintaining its facilities, and its public engagement and knowledge transfer activities.

We found that the facilities managed by the CCLRC were highly regarded by the user community, as were the technical and other support services provided by CCLRC staff. This view was generally reflected in the performance of the CCLRC in facility provision, as measured by existing indicators. We also found that the CCLRC had been slow in developing new performance measures to reflect its new role.

There was some disquiet about the dual role of the CCLRC as the provider of strategic advice on access to large scale facilities and also the operator of such facilities. Confidence in the CCLRC had been affected by the perceived conflict of interest. We concluded that efforts by the CCLRC management to separate these two roles had not gone far enough and had not restored confidence. We have recommended that the strategic advisory role in respect of large facilities currently performed by the CCLRC, and other Research Councils, should be taken on by Research Councils UK.

We investigated complaints that due to the inability of Research Councils to provide sufficient funding, facilities at the CCLRC were being increasingly used by foreign researchers. The evidence did not support this view. We have encouraged the CCLRC to develop clearer policies relating to user access to its facilities. We also found that efforts to engage with industry had produced disappointing results thus far and we have called upon the CCLRC to renew its efforts on this front.

With regard to the hosting of large scale facilities in the UK, we found that the CCLRC had not handled the development of a UK bid for a European Spallation Source very well. We are convinced of the wider economic and scientific benefits to the UK of hosting large scale facilities and have called for the Ten Year Science Strategy to provide a clear indication that the Government is prepared to support a suitable UK bid.




 
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Prepared 22 June 2004