Select Committee on Science and Technology Ninth Report

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  We believe that Sir Keith's experience, both in academia and at the MoD, should equip him well for his duties as DGRC and note that his appointment has been favourably received by many in the science community. However, we are disappointed that Sir Keith has not yet been able to fully commit to his new post. It is essential that the DGRC plays a full role in the development of the ten-year framework for science and investment and negotiations for the spending review. We are concerned that this is not possible whilst the DGRC is only in post for one day each week. We hope that in future the OST will ensure that appointments for major posts are ready to assume their positions as soon as the post becomes vacant. (Paragraph 3)

2.  We welcome Sir Keith's recognition of the need to respect the independence of the Research Councils granted by their Royal Charters. We also endorse his view that RCUK strategy group meetings should not become mired in discussions over detail. However, Sir Keith's unwillingness to appear before the Committee on behalf of RCUK and to address cross-council issues signifies a notable departure from his predecessors' interpretation of the role. If the DGRC cannot speak on behalf of the Research Councils, there is an obvious need to clarify the nature of his job, as well as to establish who should speak on behalf of RCUK. It is vital that the relationship between the DGRC and RCUK is clearly defined. We welcome the fact that Sir Keith appears to recognise this and look forward to exploring this issue further during our forthcoming scrutiny of RCUK. (Paragraph 6)

3.  We believe that the title DGRC is misleading and are pleased that Sir Keith is receptive to finding an alternative title that more accurately reflects his role. We suggest that 'Director General of the Research Base' better indicates the scope of his responsibilities. (Paragraph 8)

4.  We therefore recommend that Government revisit the responsibilities allocated to the DGRC and CSA to reflect better the priorities now associated with these posts. In particular, the designation of the CSA as Head of the OST is confusing and underplays the significance of the DGRC's role. At present, it is difficult for an observer to understand the reporting lines and responsibilities of the senior management in the OST. We believe that the OST should clarify these relationships, and announce the resulting organisational structure. (Paragraph 11)

5.  We believe that public engagement with science and technology is an issue of the utmost importance and are disappointed that the OST has taken so long to implement the recommendations of the British Association report on Science in Society. We hope that Sir Keith's involvement will give fresh impetus to efforts in this area and look forward to Sir Keith's return in a year's time to report on the progress he has made. (Paragraph 13)

6.  We are pleased that Sir Keith intends to work hard at improving funding arrangements for interdisciplinary research. We believe that despite the progress already made towards this end by the Research Councils, further attention needs to be given to the ability of the Research Councils to handle proposals for interdisciplinary research. We also welcome Sir Keith's recognition of the Research Councils' role in supporting research for international development and hope that this will translate into greater consistency between the policies of the various Research Councils. (Paragraph 15)

7.  We are encouraged by Sir Keith's conviction that the Treasury has successfully engaged with the scientific community in developing this framework and are pleased that he acknowledges the potential difficulties arising from the short consultation period. We intend to undertake a detailed examination of the ten-year framework in a forthcoming inquiry. (Paragraph 16)

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