Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Fourth Report

6  Conclusions

123. The Science Budget Allocations were announced by the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills with great enthusiasm. We agree that there is much in the budget to be celebrated: we have noted in this report the welcome move towards meeting the full economic cost of research and the Government's vision for translating the UK's outstanding basic science base into economic and social benefits. There are other items in this Science Budget Allocation that we could have mentioned with similar support, for example, the new capital fund for supporting long-term investment in universities and research infrastructure. In a tough fiscal climate, the CSR07 Science Budget is a good one.

124. However, the first Science Budget of the new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, which was created "to drive forward delivery of the Government's long-term goal to make Britain one of the best places in the world for science, research and innovation",[162] has been marred by a few poor decisions. Broadly speaking, DIUS left STFC with a large hole in its budget, and STFC managed its allocation poorly. Additionally, the headline increases in the science budget, after commitments to FEC and the new bodies have been taken into account, translate broadly into flat cash for all the Research Councils except MRC, which means fewer grants can be funded. Consequently, the PR fanfare turned into a PR disaster for the Government.

125. Our inquiry has raised questions about management at all levels. We have raised concerns about DIUS's attitude towards the Haldane Principle and its communication with the Research Councils. We have also uncovered in STFC an ineffective and secretive management team, with poor communications. DIUS has a difficult job to do: it has to ensure the Research Councils are effective without interfering in how they spend their money. The evidence suggests that the Department's performance has been below par in both these areas and we look to the Department to demonstrate greater effectiveness in the future.

162   The Allocations of the Science Budget 2008/09 to 2010/11, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, December 2007, p 3 Back

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