Supplementary evidence from the Natural
Environment Research Council (NERC) following the evidence session
on 1 May 2007
Response from Dr Philip Newton to 11 May request
for note on:
the details and timescales regarding
the consultation process for the Oceans 2025 proposal (Questions
45 to 50 refer)
In my response to Q42 of the Committee, I stated
that: "...the Oceans 2025 Directors, when they were developing
the proposal, had an open consultation to try to answer our question
of what needed to be in it, and that [it] involved the universities,
as well as the various agencies and departments [that] could play
a part in trying to shape what was in it".
I can confirm that the above statement is correct.
The actual consultation process used by the
Oceans 2025 Directors was as follows:
(i) A 25-page overview of the draft Oceans
2025 proposal was posted on public-access areas of the websites
of the seven Oceans 2025 institutes on 30 November 2005 (a few
days later for some institutes)shortly after its approval
for such a purpose by NERC's Science & Innovation Strategy
Boardwith an open invitation to comment.
(ii) The consultation was open until
30 January 2006 (a period of two months). The overview draft remained
on the public website until final proposal submission (end March
2006), whereupon it was replaced by a revised and finalised version
of the overview.
(iii) The consultation was flagged as
a website `news' item.
(iv) In addition, the overview document
(and in some cases parts of the draft proposal) was used as a
basis for a targetted consultation of key stakeholders, including
relevant Government Departments and agencies.
(v) Parts of the university sector were
also involved in some elements of the targetted consultation,
such as in a 2-day workshop to develop the ocean modelling component
of the proposal.
It should be emphasised that the open component
of this consultation was on the Oceans 2025 "overview"
document, not the more detailed draft proposal which was in iteration
until its submission as a final version for peer-review to NERC
in March 2007. This distinction reveals that my answer to Q46
is technically incorrect, in that I said that "the proposal
was subject to an open consultation.". By "proposal"
I was in fact referring to the Oceans 2025 overview document (I
have always been fully aware that the proposal was not openly
consulted on). I apologise for the confusion caused here by my
imprecise choice of language. The quote from Professor Henderson
in Q46 refers to "
the Oceans 2025 document", which
seems ambiguous as to whether it refers to the overview document
or the draft proposal.
An open consultation of this nature has not
previously been normal practice in developing science proposals
to NERC, and it is not normal practice for the actual proposals
to be public documents. Indeed, if this were the case then the
ensuing process of national and international peer-review of the
proposal, and consequent analysis of the reviews by a panel of
national and international experts, would arguably be compromised.
NERC encouraged the Oceans 2025 Directors to
undertake the open consultation on the overview document, to support
development of the proposal, but did not issue any formal direction
on following guidelines for Government-style consultations. In
this case, the time constraints of the process would not have
allowed a full 3-month consultation period. Moreover, it should
be noted that this is a science proposal, not a strategy document,
and it is highly unusual to conduct any sort of open consultation
on science proposals.
The final Oceans 2025 science proposal, minus
the elements that were not funded by NERC, will be made publicly
available on the Oceans 2025 website during the week commencing
14 May 2007.