Select Committee on Science and Technology Sixth Report

Conclusions and recommendations

From OST to OSI

Objectives of the reorganisation

1.  The OSI must remain alert to the potential of closer integration with the DTI to compromise its role in looking at science across the whole of Government and its duty to promote the health of UK science, including basic research as well as innovation and economic returns. This may argue for a separate Ministry of Science and we recommend that the Government consider this in any future change to the machinery of government. (Paragraph 14)

2.  The departure of the previous Chief Scientific Adviser was an opportunity for the DTI to change its stance on appointing its own independent CSA. We hope that the DTI will keep the arrangement whereby the DGSI also undertakes this role under review. It must be prepared to consider separating the roles, should it become apparent that the job of the DGSI has become overloaded. (Paragraph 16)

Implementation of the changes

3.  The merger of the OST and the Innovation Group has been a success. We congratulate both those who had the foresight to plan the change and those responsible for implementing it. (Paragraph 17)

The review process

4.  We expect to receive earlier notification of any structural changes to the department which involve the OSI in the future. (Paragraph 19)

The Technology Strategy Board

5.  The need to appoint new members in October 2007 should provide an opportunity for a review of the Technology Strategy Board's activities in order to inform decisions on new appointees. We recommend that this review be carried out before October. (Paragraph 23)

Objectives and performance measures

The OSI performance management system

6.  We accept that it is necessary to adapt the output frameworks used to measure the performance of the Research Councils as it comes fully into use in order that it remains a practical and useful document. We are concerned, however, that the measures should be firmly established in order to allow comparison from year to year. There must not be too many changes once the system has been allowed to bed down. It would be helpful for the OSI to highlight in the introduction to future output frameworks reports exactly which metrics have been amended and which are causing difficulties in terms of data collection or meaningfulness. (Paragraph 27)

The DTI Performance Report

7.  There is room for improvement in the transparency and presentation of information about how the performance of the OSI and its associated bodies is to be assessed across the board and we urge the DTI and OSI to address this. (Paragraph 28)

8.  We welcome the work going on to identify meaningful and accessible output measures for the OSI and the Research Councils. We expect to receive updates as the work progresses in this area and before the changes have been finalised. (Paragraph 32)

9.  We recommend that the OSI, in its response to this Report, make a clear statement on how it intends to meet the target of 2.5% as a percentage of GDP within its current strategy. In addition, although we appreciate the logic of including service sector R&D within the scope of business R&D, we believe that the 2.5% target would need to be revisited if the basis of measurement were changed. (Paragraph 33)

Budgets and other financial issues

The SR2004 settlement for science

10.  We deplore the willingness of the DTI to "raid" the Science Budget to meet its obligations elsewhere. Ring-fencing the budget should mean that it is guaranteed and not available for other purposes. We recommend that the DTI make an absolute commitment to observing the strict principle of ring-fencing the Science Budget in future. We welcome the assurance from the Chancellor and DTI that the end of year flexibility for 2007-08 is guaranteed. We note that this difficulty arises because of the embedding of the OSI within DTI, a department with priorities other than science and innovation. (Paragraph 37)

The 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review

11.  We are particularly concerned in the CSR 2007 round that having encouraged the Research Councils to think in interdisciplinary terms, due priority should be accorded to spending in this area. We will examine the outcome with attention as to whether this proves to be the case. (Paragraph 39)

Science and Innovation Framework 2004-14: Next Steps

12.  We have consistently argued that the Treasury should address its position as the only major Government department without a departmental chief scientific adviser. We remain strongly of the view that this would add rigour and credibility to Treasury thinking on science. (Paragraph 44)

Research Councils

The Cooksey Review and OSI

13.  We recommend that the OSI publish a timetable of the reviews it is conducting under the auspices of the Cooksey recommendations on public/charity funding streams, a strategy for skills in health research and a review of technology transfer activities, and that the results of these reviews be made public. (Paragraph 54)

Science and Technology Facilities Council

14.  We recommend that the funding for the Science and Technology Facilities Council from the CSR round be an increase over the combined existing budgets of its component parts in order that it can achieve its potential. (Paragraph 57)

15.  We will monitor the operations of the STFC once it has come into being and will look for an opportunity to discuss its progress, work and administration with Professor Mason once a reasonable period has elapsed. (Paragraph 59)

Science across Government

16.  We expect the review of the Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees to address the concerns raised in our scientific advice report, and we look forward to examining the new Code when it is published. (Paragraph 60)

17.  We recommend that the OSI again review the resources available to its Science in Government team, with a view to increasing the turnover and production of departmental science reviews. We also recommend that the OSI publish a more realistic assessment of timetables for each review and for the programme as a whole. In general, we recommend that far greater attention is paid by the OSI to updating its website. The OSI should be expected to set an example in communications and the use of IT to inform the public and stakeholders of its work. (Paragraph 65)

18.  We recommend that the OSI adopt a policy of forwarding copies of departmental science reviews and subsequent responses upon publication to the relevant select committee in the Commons. We urge our colleagues on other select committees to make thorough use of these documents to inform their scrutiny of the departments under review. (Paragraph 66)

Scrutiny of the Science Minister

19.  We recommend that the OSI outline in its response to this Report the new dialogues and initiatives within the OSI established since November 2006 to encourage the creation of a "knowledge democracy" and spread the use of science throughout Government and beyond. (Paragraph 69)

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