GLOBAL SCIENCE AND INNOVATION FORUM
67. The Government's Science and Innovation Framework
2004-2014 recommended the establishment of a Global Science
and Innovation Forum (GSIF).
The purpose of the forum, according to OSI, is "to coordinate
a more evidence-based approach to international engagement and
ensure UK interventions in this area adapt to the evolving international
economic and research environment."
GSIF's terms of reference are as follows:
i. To monitor implementation of the overarching
UK strategy for international engagement in science and innovation,
to update it and develop new recommendations where necessary;
ii. To provide advice on cross-governmental issues
relating to the strategy, where there is a clear need for co-ordination
in order to inform UK government policy and/or UK positions in
iii. To review UK activities with focus countries
in line with the strategy, and where necessary provide advice
on further coordination or new activities needed;
iv. To consider the implications of new evidence
and trends relating to the UK's international science and innovation
engagement, including evaluations of the various schemes to support
68. The membership of GSIF includes: the trans-departmental,
research base and innovation areas from OSI DTI (now DIUS), UK
Trade and Investment, FCO, Defra, the DFID, the British Council,
the Royal Society, RCUK, the Department for Education and Skills
(now DIUS), HM Treasury, the Department of Health, and the Ministry
of Justice. Its secretariat has been provided by the OSI International
Directorate (now DIUS). The Research Councils do not all attend
for logistical reasons but RCUK states that the Councils have
contributed to GSIF's work such as the development of its strategy.
69. In October 2006, GSIF published the Global
Science and Innovation Forum: A Strategy for International Engagement
in Research and Development.
The strategy focuses on research excellence, excellence in innovation,
global influence and international development. It recommended
further improvements in the following areas:
- "Ensuring UK researchers
and businesses engage with the best research internationally,
through simplified access to public support schemes and consolidating
the UK presence in key partner countries;
- Developing strategic partnerships, through new
schemes to link world class UK universities with counterparts
in China and India and to attract the best researchers to the
UK and managing alumni effectively in the long term;
- Improving coordination to create synergies across
government and key non-governmental bodies - in bilateral relationships
with priority countries, in marketing and communicating UK strengths,
and in promoting scientific advice in international policy making;
- Supporting activities to increase the innovative
nature of UK business - ensuring it has the capacity to internationalise
and access to the best science, engineering and technology opportunities
worldwide; and increasing the research intensity of the UK by
encouraging R&D investment in the UK by innovative multinational
GSIF partners are now working on implementing the
strategy and recommendations. The Research Councils are responsible
for implementing recommendations within the first area of improvement
such as streamlining and simplifying the interface between publicly
funded schemes to encourage collaboration, improving the presence
of the RCUK brand, and establishing overseas offices.
70. GSIF has been welcomed by organisations such
as the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering. The Royal
Society told us that GSIF was a "huge improvement" on
the Chief Scientific Adviser's International Committee that preceded
it, adding that GSIF "has shown itself to be a group which
can forge real consensus between these stakeholders and has the
ability to bring about co-ordinated action."
The Royal Academy of Engineering welcomed the principle of GSIF
but regretted that the Academy had not been given an opportunity
to contribute to the GSIF strategy.
71. Although witnesses tended to agree that GSIF
had made a good start, most provided examples of how it needed
to improve in the future. Dr Randal Richards, Interim Chief Executive
of the EPSRC, told us that "GSIF is a good start at trying
to get interaction with what is a complex area [
] It needs
to focus on a few areas".
Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive of STFC, agreed, saying
that GSIF needed to focus on "how to deal with multinational
collaborations, how to influence multilateral collaborations to
do what the UK wants them to do, and how to interact in that way."
Dr Bernie Jones from the Royal Society told us that GSIF "has
done reasonably well so far, but it could still do better".
72. One of the areas that submissions focused upon
was the need for further co-ordination of policies. Universities
UK, for example, welcomed GSIF but noted that "better cross
government coordination of policies is still needed".
The Royal Academy of Engineering reiterated this, saying that
"although the Academy is aware of the existence of mechanisms
to promote co-ordination and collaboration between the Research
Councils and the Government Departments involved in international
scientific activities, current performance would suggest that
these are not yet working effectively."
Professor Diamond, Chief Executive of ESRC acknowledged that "the
critical thing is that we simply have to have 'joined-upness'
across those government departments which do have an interest
in this area."
We believe that the GSIF partners should not be complacent and
should use implementation of the strategy as a springboard for
continued work on co-ordination.
73. We have heard comments that GSIF is not visible
beyond Whitehall. The University of Warwick told us that "these
collaborations are at a high level and are either not visible
at university level or their benefits do not seem to filter down."
This sentiment was reiterated by UKCRC and NOCS.
Professor Sir Keith O'Nions told us "I do not think that
its [GSIF's] profile has been strong externally" but noted
that "If GSIF is going to have an ongoing role, then the
way in which its profile would be increased would be by having,
following Funder's Forum, an open meeting once a year with stakeholders,
putting minutes on the website and engaging more in that way."
74. We welcome
the Global Science and Innovation Forum (GSIF) but emphasise that
it needs to increase its visibility, publicise itself and prove
its worth. We recommend that GSIF's performance be monitored by
the Government Chief Scientific Adviser's Office in DIUS.
FOREIGN OFFICE ACTIVITIES
75. In 2000, the FCO established a Science and Innovation
Network (SIN) as part of its science strategy. The network now
has over 100 officers in 42 missions in 28 countries across the
world. The network
is co-ordinated by the Science and Innovation Group (SIG) in London.
SIN and the Research Councils work together organising visits
to host countries, providing access to a country's science base,
providing access to the UK science base, exchanging intelligence
on science priorities, responding to fact-finding missions and
developing specific projects. The FCO spends approximately £10.6
million a year on SIN.
76. SIN has worked with the Research Councils to
encourage positive collaborations with other countries on various
projects such as:
- The Earth Simulator Supercomputer
in JapanNERC and SIN worked to enable three British researchers
to be based in Japan for three years;
- The Maths (Representation Theory) Initiative
- EPSRC and SIN are working to develop a collaborative initiative
and Memorandum of Understanding with France;
- Workshops in China on foodborne pathogens (BBSRC),
climate change (NERC), cancer research (MRC), spintronics (EPSRC),
astronomy (STFC), synchrotron radiation (STFC), e-Science (EPSRC)
and polar research (NERC).
77. The FCO highlighted two main problems in its
relationship with the Research Councils: collaboration and communication.
The Research Councils are key stakeholders in SIN and the FCO
says that understanding their priorities, particularly in relation
to individual countries, is crucial to an effective collaborative
relationship. It states that "Collaboration is good but there
is scope for greater understanding
SIN is keen to work more
closely with RCs."
The FCO also told us that "Communication has generally been
good and is getting better".
It says that it would like to work more closely with the Research
Councils, in particular the ESRC.
78. The Research Councils generally provided positive
accounts of their interaction with the FCO, often listing events
arranged by SIN.
CCLRC told us that FCO staff "provide an excellent level
PPARC said that it "found the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's
Science and Innovation Network foreign attachés to be particularly
important when liaising with countries in the Far-East such as
Japan and China."
RCUK noted that the SIN teams in China, Washington and India had
been closely involved in the plans to establish offices in these
Research Councils have, however, also noted areas for improvement,
such as earlier engagement by the FCO on country specific initiatives
and better planning in term of delivery.
The AHRC told us that "an enduring problem in establishing
closer links with the FCO and utilising its Science and Innovation
Network more effectively is the lack of coverage of arts and humanities
issues and researchers by science attachés."
79. The FCO and Research Councils have both taken
steps to improve the relationship. The FCO has appointed a Research
Council specific stakeholder manager and FCO representatives have
attended the Research Council International Network. RCUK states
that it is working on putting in place "more robust"
means for gathering and verifying information on international
activities for the FCO.
80. We welcome
the FCO's Science and Innovation Network. We recommend that the
Research Councils and FCO continue to work to improve co-ordination.
The FCO should play a stronger role in the delivery of the Research
Councils' international policies providing in-country assistance
and advice when necessary.
81. DFID has developed partnerships with the Research
Councils in order to deliver the internationally agreed Millennium
Development Goals and to meet the policy initiatives outlined
in the 2006 White Paper Making Governance Work for the Poor.
DFID states that the partnerships that are outlined in Box 3 will
bring the best of UK academic excellence to its work and will
increase collaboration between researchers in the developed and
Box 3: DFID's collaborative programmes with the Research Councils