Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum 40

Submission from the Office of Science and Innovation

  This memorandum outlines OSI's interests in relation to marine science and technology. Funding is provided for marine science via the Research Councils, in the same manner as for other research areas. There has been some specific OSI involvement over the last 15 years. There was a Marine Panel in the first Foresight round; more recently, marine science made an important contribution to the Foresight project on Flooding and Coastal Defence; and, until 2003, the Office of Science and Technology (OST) chaired the Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology (IACMST). These issues are addressed in response to the specific questions raised by the Select Committee (below).

1.  THE ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE OSI IN RELATION TO THE MARINE SCIENCES AND TECHNOLOGY SECTOR

  Marine science and technology responsibilities are distributed widely across Government departments, agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPBs). In the past, this meant that there was no single, obvious policy lead on marine science issues. The Inter-Agency Committee on Marine Science and Technology (IACMST) was therefore set up to maintain an overview of national and international activities in marine science and technology activities and encourage the optimum use of major UK facilities for this area of science. Because of the then lack of a clear lead department, OST originally chaired this committee. In 2003, the decision was taken to transfer the committee to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), whose formation in 2001 had created a focus for marine policy and science in Whitehall.

  OSI maintains a broad interest in science within and across Government as an input to evidence-based policy making. OSI has continued its formal membership of IACMST but has not played an active role in it.

  The seven Research Councils are the main public investors of research in the UK universities and RC institutes. They are funded by the Science Budget through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)/OSI. There is a good and long-standing principle that Government does not prescribe to individual Research Councils the details of how they should allocate resources between competing priorities. It is the responsibility of each of the Councils to decide what science it should fund and where, in order to deliver its Charter objectives and its mission. At a strategic level, OSI agrees the Delivery Plans prepared by each Council setting out their priorities and deliverables for the Spending Review period. OSI is not resourced to retain expertise in each research sector or discipline. This is the responsibility of the relevant Research Council(s).

  Three Councils (NERC, EPSRC and BBSRC) fund research relating to marine science, details of which were provided in their individual memoranda to the Committee. NERC's Delivery Plan for the period 2005-08 included the renewal of funding for marine research which resulted in the Oceans 2025 Programme.

2.  SUPPORT AVAILABLE FROM THE OSI EITHER EXCLUSIVE TO OR OF PARTICULAR RELEVANCE TO MARINE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

  In addition to the individual funding allocations made to each of the Research Councils following Spending Review 2004, during which some Councils made commitments in areas relevant to marine science, the DTI/OSI Large Facilities Capital Fund (LFCF) provided £25 million of funding to NERC to assist with the purchase of the RRS James Cook. This new oceanographic research ship was delivered to NERC in August 2006. The provision of LFCF funding followed prioritisation by RCUK of the projects listed in their Large Facilities `Roadmap'. The remainder of the project cost was met by NERC.

  LFCF funding of £38.5 million has also been earmarked for a replacement for the RRS Discovery, which is expected to be ready for service in around 2011/12.

3.  COVERAGE OF MARINE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY WITHIN THE FORESIGHT PROGRAMME, INCLUDING THE REASONS FOR DISBANDING THE MARINE PANEL AND HOW MARINE ISSUES HAVE BEEN COVERED WITHIN FORESIGHT SINCE THAT TIME

  Foresight was established in 1994 in response the Government's 1993 Science and Technology White Paper "Realising Our Potential". At that time the Foresight Programme was formed of sixteen sector-based Panels, one of which was the Marine Panel. The Marine Panel published its findings in 1997, together with a report by a working group on Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture.

  The next Foresight round started in 1999 and had only eleven sector-based panels, none of which specifically addressed marine issues. However, the Marine Panel had found its work sufficiently successful and thought-provoking that it decided to continue its work in a private capacity. In support of this Foresight provided the Panel with funding of £20k a year for two years.

  In 2000 Lord Sainsbury (the then science and innovation Minister) announced a review of the Foresight Programme aimed at building on the successes of the first two rounds, and ensuring that the programme was fully able to exploit the challenges of the future. The key findings of the review were that the programme needed to refocus on science and technology; be more flexible to take account of emerging developments; and to focus resources more clearly on where they would best add value. As a result, the programme moved away from a structure of standing panels, covering broad sectors, to one that would allow new issues to be targeted and picked up quickly. The new rolling programme of projects was established in April 2002.

  Foresight's move to project-based activities meant that it was unable to continue funding the Marine Panel, as the Panel's work no longer aligned with Foresight policy and its new objectives.

  That said, the marine environment is fundamental to the issue of coastal flooding, and formed an integral part of a Foresight project on Flooding and Coastal Defence. The project delivered a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the drivers of coastal flood risk over the next 30 to 80 years in four socioeconomic- and CO2 emission-based scenarios. This included an analysis of coastal processes and the impacts of climate change on, for example, the frequency and intensity of marine storms and their associated surges and wave action and sea-level rise. The project also assessed the efficacy and sustainability of a number of responses, such as managed realignment of coastal defences and structurally engineered solutions. It reported its findings in April 2004.

4.  ANY OTHER RECENT WORK OR RESEARCH UNDERTAKEN BY OSI INTO ISSUES RELATED TO MARINE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

  OSI has not itself undertaken any recent work or research into issues related to marine science and technology. Rather, its role is to provide funding via the Research Councils, who support research relating to marine science.

5.  THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN OSI AND THE IACMST, AND BETWEEN OSI AND THE RESEARCH COUNCILS INVOLVED IN MARINE RESEARCH, WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO NERC AND EPSRC

The relationship between OSI and IACMST

  Since 2003, Defra has had lead responsibility for IACMST. The Committee is currently chaired by Defra's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir Howard Dalton, but in an independent capacity. OSI, which formerly had the lead, has retained formal membership of the IACMST.

  The change in leadership came about following the creation of Defra, which provided a focus for marine policy and science in Whitehall that had not existed previously. Specifically, marine science supports Defra's work on conservation, environmental protection, fisheries and costal management objectives. (Other departments which sit on IACMST, such as the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Transport, have an interest in marine science, but to a lesser extent than Defra.)

  The British National Space Centre (BNSC) attends IACMST by invitation when space-related issues are on the agenda. For example, last year, BNSC provided an overview and update to IACMST on the space component of the Global Monitoring for Environment & Security (GMES) initiative.

The relationship between OSI and the Research Councils involved in marine research

  Each Research Council is a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) responsible to the Secretary of State (DTI) and receives most of its funds by grant-in-aid approved by Parliament as proposed by the OSI. The Secretary of State is accountable to Parliament for the activities of each Council and determines the broad policy framework within which they operate and the amount of Parliamentary grant-in-aid. The Director General Science & Innovation is responsible for supporting the Secretary of State in securing the successful and high-quality operations of each Council in pursuit of its Charter objects, and for advising the Secretary of State and the DTI Accounting Officer in pursuance of their responsibilities in respect of the Councils. Detailed reporting, operations and accountability requirements for each Council are set out in a `Management Statement and Financial Memorandum' (which is agreed between OSI and the respective Council). This provides the principal vehicle for setting out the accountability requirements, and is supplemented by detailed guidance on objective setting, planning and reporting, which is issued annually by OSI to the Councils.

  EPSRC and NERC collaborate closely on multidisciplinary research in marine science where it crosses the remit of both Research Councils, and there is a Concordat in place on responsive mode funding to support research that crosses remits.

6.  OSI'S VIEWS ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE CO-ORDINATING MECHANISMS FOR MARINE SCIENCE BETWEEN GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS AND ON ITS OWN RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES WORKING IN THIS AREA

  IACMST maintains an overview of national and international activities in marine science and technology and provides a mechanism for liaison between its members. If IACMST members had doubts about the effectiveness of the body we would expect them, or the IACMST Chair, to draw these to OSI's attention. This has not so far occurred.

7.  OSI'S ASSESSMENT OF THE HEALTH OF THE SECTOR AND OF TRENDS IN FUNDING MARINE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, BOTH FROM PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SOURCES, OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS

  OSI does not perform detailed analyses by sector. OSI monitors the levels of R&D more generally performed and funded by the business, government, higher education and private non-profit sectors, and departmental spends on R&D and science, engineering and technology. Funding for the marine sector will contribute to these totals.

June 2007





 
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