Putting Science and Engineering at the Heart of Government Policy - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 1

Submission from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills


  The UK's economic success over the last ten years is based to a substantial degree on its successful use of science, engineering and innovation, whether in pharmaceuticals, aerospace and defence, communications, financial services or in a wide range of innovative small businesses. In addition the ten year framework for investment in science and innovation and succeeding policy documents have formed a strong basis for continued and increased investment in the UK's research base and in innovation, and for improving the use of science and engineering in Government.

These are policies for the long term and are being maintained through the current economic challenges so that the UK is well placed to benefit from the upturn when it comes. In addition the National Economic Council is actively seeking ways of using the UK's excellence in science and engineering to bring forward investment in industries and activities which will both reduce the depth of the downturn and put us in a stronger long term position.

This memorandum is structured to reflect the two broad related themes identified by the Committee:

    —  The contribution of science and engineering to Government policy, and

    —  Government policy on science and engineering.

  These themes overlap and interact, so some of the issues discussed in the memorandum relate to both themes.

1.1  Cabinet sub-Committee on Science and Innovation

  The importance placed on the use of science and engineering in policy-making was made clear by the Prime Minister's recent creation of a Cabinet sub-Committee on Science and Innovation (ED(SI)). Through his chairmanship of this Committee, the Science Minister, Lord Drayson will drive implementation of science and innovation policy, including ensuring that science and engineering make a central contribution to policy development. The Committee is well placed to deliver cross-cutting action, working as it does across departmental boundaries so that linkages across government on policy development and delivery are better identified and exploited. It will also serve as a forum where good practice can be shared and poor performance robustly challenged.

The Committee meets monthly and addresses issues such as innovation and procurement, R&D strategies, science and society, investing in science and innovation, STEM skills, and the management and use of science by departments. The Chair reports quarterly on progress to the Prime Minister.


  Under the leadership of Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) Professor John Beddington, Chief Scientific Advisers (CSAs) from the lead science-using departments meet regularly to discuss strategy, current issues and priorities with each other and with Research Council and Technology Strategy Board CEOs. In addition the GCSA meets regularly with the other Heads of Analysis (statistics, operational research, economics and social research) in Government. A key objective is to identify opportunities for synergy, reinforcement, and improved delivery paths across the science and other evidence base and policy. This is more important than ever in the current economic climate.

Policy makers in Government are trained actively to seek and use analytical evidence, including that derived from science and engineering. This expectation has been formalised in the Professional Skills for Government (PSG) core skill of "Analysis and Use of Evidence" for all civil servants.

  Departments and Agencies with substantial R&D spend have in place science and innovation strategies that place the role of science and engineering more clearly within the wider policy and resource context.

  A Government Social Research Unit study[1] in 2007 described changes over time of the contribution that analysis (including science and engineering) generated with or commissioned by departments makes to government policy. The GSRU painted a generally positive picture but with some reservations. For example, in some cases, policy-makers did not acknowledge the importance of the evidence base, giving as their reason that it failed to provide unambiguous conclusions. In response, the Government Office for Science has commissioned a project with the Risk and Regulatory Advisory Council to develop guidance for civil servants on risk, with a particular focus on risk communication and a better understanding of the opportunities and limitations of scientific and engineering evidence.

  During 2008, in response to feedback from departments, there has been a thorough independent review of Science Reviews, peer reviewed by the Heads of Analysis Group and the Chief Scientific Advisers Committee. This has concluded that the time is right to adopt a two-tier system of evaluation of the use by departments of scientific and engineering evidence. These reviews will be co-owned by the GCSA and the relevant Permanent Secretary. The expectation is that most reviews will be "lighter touch", unless the department requests or agrees to an in-depth evaluation of a particular area of concern. The new approach will be faster and more focused on departmental business objectives, whilst also having the flexibility to respond to issues that cross departmental boundaries and engage more than one analytical discipline. The new approach will be piloted early in 2009.

  The Government's strategy for science in Government, due for publication in the first part of 2009, will further reinforce the aim of excellent policy-making supported by a more sophisticated understanding of science and engineering advice throughout Government.

  In recent years the GCSA and GO-Science have led the way in strengthening the place of science and engineering inside departments. All major science-using departments have accepted the case for appointing their own CSAs. Professor Beddington is working closely with the community of CSAs to build a cross-government approach to identifying and taking forward research priorities which address major policy challenges such as understanding and responding to the complex inter-relationships between climate change, energy, water, food, and migration.

2.1  Council for Science and Technology

  The Council for Science and Technology (CST) is the Prime Minister's top-level independent advisory body on strategic science and technology policy issues, and engages with all Government departments as appropriate to the issue under consideration. The 17 members of the Council are respected senior figures drawn from across science, engineering and technology (including social research and economics). The CST has made valuable contributions across a wide range of key policy challenges that include its reports, Policy through Dialogue (March 2005), Better use of personal information: opportunities and risks (November 2005), Nanotechnologies Policy Review (March 2007), Strategic Decision Making for Technology Policy Making (November 2007) and most recently How Academia and Government can Work Together (October 2008). The Council also engages with Ministers and senior officials in a more informal way and on shorter timescales whenever appropriate or helpful. For example last month the Council met the Prime Minister and advised him informally on making strategic technology choices and addressing the challenges in UK venture capital funding in the context of the economic downturn.

2.2  The Chief Scientific Advisers Committee and Core Issues Group

The Chief Scientific Advisers Committee (CSAC) includes all departmental CSAs as well as the HSE Chief Scientist, the joint head of the Government Economic Service, a Treasury representative, CSAs to the Devolved Administrations and the DIUS DG Science and Research. It meets quarterly and addresses issues of common interest. For example its last meeting addressed the RCEP report on novel materials, preparing for the next spending review, horizon scanning, monitoring and evaluation of scientific advisory committees, the science review programme, the forthcoming strategy for science in Government, the IUSS Committee's report on biosecurity and the Government's response, raising the profile of CSAs, GO-Science web pages and PSRE sustainability.

The CSAC Core Issues Group (CIG) includes a sub-group of CSAs from the principal science-using departments as well as the CSA to the Scottish Government. It meets every six weeks and form sub-groups to address current issues. At present it has sub-groups on counter-terrorism and on climate change and food security. It meets at least twice a year with the Chief Executives of the Research Councils and Technology Strategy Board. It has agreed with the Chief Executives to work together on cross-cutting strategic priorities in preparing for the next Spending Review.

2.3  Global Science and Innovation Forum

  The Global Science and Innovation Forum, which is chaired by the GCSA, includes eight government departments, UK Trade and Investment, RCUK, the TSB, the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the British Council and the Academy of Medical Sciences. It developed the UK's global science and innovation strategy and co-ordinates its implementation. At its next meeting the Forum will discuss the implications of the new US administration and review its forward role and work programme.

2.4  Building the Community of Interest in Science and Engineering

There are estimated to be more than 18,000 civil servants with science and engineering backgrounds. These form a spectrum between those who work on science and/or engineering day to day (some in a laboratory context) and those who work in other Civil Service professions such as policy delivery or operational delivery.

As Head of Science and Engineering Profession (HoSEP) in Government, Professor Beddington is co-ordinating and supporting the work of departmental HoSEPs to champion and support the profession. The current work programme includes developing a PSG competency framework for scientists and engineers across all grades, building a 'Community of Interest', and hosting the first annual conference for the Community of Interest in January 2009. The conference will address how best to embed science and engineering advice in policy. Part of the purpose of the Community is to encourage scientists and engineers working on policy to bring their background to bear more actively on their work and thence improve policy formation and delivery.

2.5  Departmental Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies

  Many departmental agencies and non-departmental public bodies are central to providing science and engineering advice to departments. Examples include the Health Protection Agency, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the Veterinary Laboratory Agency. These are tasked and resourced under arrangements with their parent departments, and relevant departmental CSAs take a close interest in their performance and contribution to policy making.

2.6  External Advice to Departments

Government draws on external evidence and thinking in many ways including commissioning specific projects or reviews; time limited expert panels; and through standing advisory committees. Many departments also consult widely on their research programmes and evidence strategies.

A key part of the picture are the more than 75 Scientific Advisory Committees that bring together, as appropriate, deep specialists, lay members, and a mix of analytical and other advisers (eg legal and communication) from outside Government to address specific scientific questions that confront policy makers. Some departments also have an external Science Advisory Council that meets periodically to feed expert advice and challenge into policy at a strategic level. Their composition is determined by the balance of policy needs identified by the departments involved.

2.6.1  Scientific Advisory Committees (SACs)

  Most SACs exist to inform and challenge policy makers in a specific area. Their conduct and management are governed by the Code of Practice for SACs[2] (CoPSAC) that was revised in 2007 after public consultation following observations made by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. CoPSAC takes into account the Guidelines on Scientific Analysis in Policy Making,[3] which addresses how government departments should seek and apply scientific advice and evidence in the process of policy making.

Advice from SACs covers a wide range of issues, including helping strategic direction, horizon scanning, input to policy, conducting peer reviews, supporting regulation, certification and sharing knowledge. Depending on the needs of the parent department, SACs frame their advice to take account of technical, social, legal and stakeholder concerns. Wherever possible, SACs conduct their business transparently, publishing their deliberations. Since the new Code was launched, GO-Science has engaged with SACs to help ensure spread of good practice in areas identified by the SAC community itself. Most recently, this included a workshop on the induction of SAC Chairs (December 2008) in response to representations from existing Chairs that such guidance would improve SAC performance.

  There are many good practice examples of how SA Committee advice can improve policy decisions. The Gene Therapy Advisory Committee (GTAC), sponsored by the Department of Health (DH), is a good example. GTAC is responsible for the ethical oversight of proposals to conduct clinical trials involving gene or stem cell therapies. Its advice often influences decisions made in other countries. For example, its horizon scanning report on the potential use of gene therapy in utero has been accepted internationally and the advice presented means that no in utero procedures have been performed in the UK or elsewhere in the world. GTAC advice also led to a DH commitment in the 2003 Genetics White Paper of £1 million to fund innovative gene therapy research, which combined responsive and commissioned research, and sought to enhance research capacity through genetics knowledge parks and training.

2.6.2  Science Advisory Councils

  An additional model for embedding science and engineering alongside other specialist advisers is that of the Science Advisory Council. Examples can be found in MoD, Home Office, Defra, and Food Standards Agency. The underlying principle of having a senior advisory body that maps onto the policy priorities and remit of a whole department is a valuable one. Councils reflect the needs of their parent departments and can encompass physical, social and natural sciences, engineering, technology and economics. They play a key role in supporting and challenging the departmental CSA as well as the department more generally. GO-Science is working with other government departments to explore whether more Science Advisory Councils might usefully be created.

2.7  Other Engagement and Consultation

Part of the challenge in getting policy-makers to improve their use of science and engineering is to increase awareness and use of sources that fall outside their departments. Departmental CSAs can help with this. This challenge has also been addressed by the CST in its paper—"How academia and government can work together".[4] The report concluded that there was considerable scope for further strengthening links between academia and government. Particular areas for action by a range of parties (not just Government) included building capacity, relationships and incentives.

The National Academies and Learned Societies are an important source of authoritative, impartial advice, and are often consulted by Government. In the case of the Academies this advice is rooted in their Fellowships—which bring together the UK's most eminent scientists, engineers and researchers—and ranges from responses to parliamentary committees and Government consultations through to less formal, day-to-day interactions with policy officials on a wide range of issues.

  The Academies and Societies also undertake their own independent policy studies. For example:

    —  In September 2008, the British Academy published Punching our Weight: the humanities and social sciences in public policy making, prepared in concert with the Council for Science and Technology's wider investigation into how interactions between academics and public policy makers can be improved.

    —  In October 2008, the Royal Society launched a study looking at whether planetary scale geo-engineering schemes could play a role in preventing the worst effects of climate change. This is a particular focus for the Committee's continuing inquiry into Engineering.

  Foresight projects, led by GO-Science, are good examples of work to inform policy which engage large numbers of external scientists, analysts and engineers—typically hundreds for each project, led by a small external expert group. These projects review and synthesise relevant cutting edge science and use it to undertake futures analysis relevant to policy makers. A recent example was the Obesities Foresight project which had a major impact on the Government's Obesity strategy published in early 2008, and resulted in a much more evidence-based strategy than would otherwise have been the case. The influence of Foresight is also felt internationally: for example its project on the Detection and Identification of Infectious Diseases has formed the basis for co-ordinated action by the African Union and international funding partners such as the Gates Foundation and Google. Stakeholder panels for Foresight projects typically include business, charities, regional or local bodies and NGOs, depending on the issue.

  Public engagement is addressed in the last part of this memorandum.

2.8  Maximising the Impact of the Research Base on Policy Delivery and Improved Public Services

  Research Councils have strong relationships with a large number of government departments and public bodies. Research Council funded research has had significant policy impacts, for example:

    —  ESRC's Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion contributed to the development of evidence-based policy for the Sure Start programme where Government currently spends £1,000 million per year.

    —  Research produced at the AHRC's Centre for Research in Intellectual Property has played a crucial role in underpinning new legislation in areas such as e-commerce, IT, biotechnology and medical ethics.

  Research Council funded research has led to significant improvement in the delivery of public services, including:

    —  Research Council discoveries have led to better ways to treat Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, diabetes and stroke.

    —  ESRC research led to a reform of legal liability insurance for NHS hospitals which has, in turn, improved patient safety. Offering discounts on insurance premiums to hospitals with high standards of risk management led to lower rates of MRSA infections.

  Looking forward the impact of investment is expected to be maximised:

    —  All Research Councils have made the commitment to deliver a step-change in their economic impact, including impact on policy and delivery of public services, over the Comprehensive Spending Review period.

    —  Cross-council programmes are aimed at addressing key public policy challenges. Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) is a 10 year programme bringing together universities, research institutions, local authorities, public agencies, government departments and industry.

  New Institutions, such as the Office for Strategic Co-ordination of Health Research (OSCHR) and the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), will strengthen the links and speed up the process. These developments are underpinned by the excellence of the research base in the UK.

2.9  Science-based innovation to improve policy and delivery

  The Innovation Nation[5] White Paper established a broad innovation agenda for Government which has science and research at its heart but also acknowledges the importance of the other types of innovation that go on in the private and public sectors. A key theme was to use Government procurement to increase the demand for innovative products and services—this was also a theme of Lord Sainbury's Review (The Race to the Top[6]). As a result of commitments in Innovation Nation, the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) has been reformed and the reformed version is being tested through pilots. Those pilots encourage innovative procurement solutions that have engaged, in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board, the MoD (maritime and energy competitions) and the Department of Health (healthcare associated infections—eg hand hygiene and pathogen detection). Participation in the reformed SBRI will shortly be widened to other departments. In addition, Government Departments have committed to producing Innovation Procurement Plans which will include procurement of research and technology demonstrators. Guidance on producing these plans was published alongside the first Annual Innovation Report in December 2008[7]

The Technology Strategy Board catalyses bringing public investment, including procurement, together with private sector investment in areas of competitive advantage for UK technology and innovation, which in most cases also address strategic or policy challenges for the UK.

  The Technology Strategy Board works closely with business and regional and local bodies, as well as other stakeholders, on its strategy.

2.10  A Department for Science

  The Government's position on this proposal was set out by John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, during his evidence session to the Committee on 29th October 2008.[8] John Denham said: "I think the last thing you want to do is to separate off the science and innovation bit … into a separate bit of government with no purchase on the rest of the system."

DIUS performs the role of a Department for Science, and has the added benefit of linking science and innovation with skills and higher/further education. This gives it much more weight in Government, for example in the National Economic Council, where issues around human capital, knowledge and skills can be powerfully integrated.

2.11  The Government Office for Science

  The Government Office for Science (GO-Science) supports the GCSA in his roles of

    —  Providing scientific advice to the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet;

    —  Advising the Prime Minister and Cabinet on aspects of policy on science and technology;

    —  Assuring and improving the quality and use of scientific evidence and advice in government;

    —  Leading the science and engineering profession in the Civil Service;

    —  Engaging other countries and international organisations on science and technology-related issues to help achieve UK objectives; and

    —  Working to strengthen the interactions between research communities and policy makers.

  GO-Science is located within DIUS but is professionally independent of it.

2.12  Scrutiny of Government Science and Engineering Policy

  Science and Engineering policy is subject to scrutiny in many ways, for example by:

    —  The Cabinet Committee on Science and Innovation (ED(SI))

    —  The Council for Science and Technology

    —  The National Academies and Learned Societies

    —  Parliament, through Select Committees and other means.

  Individual departments' management and use of science and engineering are scrutinised within the context of the ten year framework for science and innovation[9] both through regular self-assessment and through reviews by the GCSA. Progress on innovation in departments is tracked through the Annual Innovation Report.

3.  Government Policy on Science and Engineering

  The government supports the development of scientific and engineering skills through the DIUS Science and Research budget and through Higher Education Funding Councils. DIUS also promotes wider understanding and confidence in science and engineering though public engagement. The contribution that science and engineering makes to innovation and economic exploitation is supplemented by the important work of the Technology Strategy Board.

3.1  Dual Support System

Our world-leading universities are at the heart of the UK's Research Base. Funding of university research works through a "dual support" system—which is a combination of institution level block funding from the Higher Education Funding Bodies in the four countries of the UK, and competitive funding through the Research Councils. This dual support system balances:

    —  a stable (but not static) financial foundation with competitive funding for specific projects;

    —  the need for funders to promote specific priorities with the freedom of universities to set their own agenda;

    —  the rewards for discovering new knowledge with those for working with users; rewards for future potential with those for established performance.

  The Prime Minister reaffirmed the Government's commitment to the dual support system when he created the Department for Innovation Universities and Skills, bringing together the two arms of the dual support system under one Secretary of State. This commitment continues.

  The Government has significantly increased its investment in the research base since 1997. By the end of the current spending period, DIUS will be investing almost £6 billion a year in research, including funding for universities, other public sector research establishments and subscriptions to international scientific organisations and facilities.

3.2  Does the Haldane Principle need updating?

  The Haldane Principle is as relevant today as ever—John Denham has restated his support for Haldane in his speech at the Royal Academy of Engineering on 29th April 2008:

    "For many years, the British government has been guided by the Haldane principle—that detailed decisions on how research money is spent are for the science community to make through the research councils.

    Our basis for funding research is also enshrined in the Science and Technology Act of 1965, which gives the Secretary of State power to direct the research councils—and, in practice, respects the spirit of the Haldane principle.

    In practice, of course, Haldane has been interpreted to a greater or lesser extent over the years, not least when Ted Heath transferred a quarter of research council funding to government departments—a move undone by Margaret Thatcher.

    But in the 21st century, I think three fundamental elements remain entirely valid.

    —  That researchers are best placed to determine detailed priorities.

    —  That the government's role is to set the over-arching strategy; and

    —  That the research councils are 'guardians of the independence of science'.

    These should be the basis for Haldane today, and over the decades to come, and I am happy to re-state them.

    But recent debates have thrown up questions about each of those principles. How researchers determine priorities? How ministers set strategy, and how Research Councils play their vital role."

    Given the strength of our research base, there are always more proposals for top class research than the nation can afford to fund. Decisions on which specific projects to fund are rightly taken by the Research Councils, using peer review, on behalf of the research community.

    Ministers have an important role at a strategic level. The UK's world class research base requires major strategic and sustained investment to underpin it. For example, without ministers' involvement, research would not have been supported on a sustainable basis through full economic costing.

    1.  Major facilities

    Major commitments like the UK Medical Research and Innovation Centre in Camden cannot get off the ground without active ministerial involvement across many Government Departments. The same is true of the international science and innovation centres being developed at Harwell and at Daresbury. Such commitments could be seen as constraining or pre-empting other parts of the research council programmes. But, in truth, if Britain is to be a big player in big science, major, strategic and sustained investment will always be needed.

    2.  Cross cutting responsibilities

    Whilst the Government's role is to set the overarching science and research strategy, the decisions on how research money is spent are for the research community to make through the Research Councils.

    Some have raised questions as to whether the Research Councils are unduly constrained by their commitments to the four cross-council programmes—on lifelong health and wellbeing, energy, living with environmental change, and global threats to security. The country faces serious challenges and it is only right for the nation to look to research to help to solve them. All of these activities are taking place against the backdrop of a growing budget.

    A proper focus on these challenges is essential and it must be right that Government is able to harness scientific expertise in dealing with them. That also forms a key part of our public case for research investment.

    Hence the thematic programmes give a focus and cross-disciplinary emphasis to part of the Research Councils' budget. But, within these programmes, the majority of the work funded will of course be in response mode and here too, the scope, definition and allocation of funding is determined by the Research Councils.

    3.  Response to particular issues

    Occasionally cases arise where Ministers do rightly provide strategic direction, whilst still not becoming involved in individual decisions. When the Government accepted the scientific advice not to proceed with the fourth generation light sources, it raised questions about the future development of Daresbury—an important science and innovation priority. Therefore Sir Tom McKillop was asked to extend his work with the North West Development Agency, to advise on its future development. DIUS worked with STFC to ensure he has the scope to do so.

    Similarly when it became clear how the STFC priorities might affect two areas of physics, the Secretary of State initiated a process that led to Professor Wakeham being asked to review the health of the discipline. The Wakeham review has been published and RCUK are working to implement the recommendations.

3.3  Regional Science Policy

  In responding to the IUSS Select Committee on the Science Budget Allocations (published 30 April 2008) the Government made clear its position on regional science policy:

    "The Government is committed to excellent science and research, wherever this may be in the United Kingdom. Research Councils will fund the very best research and facilities, wherever they are located in this country. This fits entirely with the Haldane Principle as set out at paragraph 3.2 above. The Government does not plan to publish a white paper on regional research policy. The ten year framework[10] provided a clear statement on Government policy in this area:

    'Public funding of research at a national level, through the Research Councils and funding bodies, is dedicated to supporting excellent research, irrespective of its UK location. The 'excellence principle' is fundamental to safeguarding the international standing and scientific credibility of the UK science and research and supporting an excellent, diverse, expanding and dynamic science base, providing value for money for public investment.' (9.52 p 146, Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014)

    This policy remains firmly in place."

  John Denham in his speech at the Royal Academy of Engineering on 29th April 2008 restated the Government's commitment to Haldane and outlined why it is necessary for Ministers to get involved in large strategic decisions:

3.4  Allocation of the Science Budget

  Allocation of the science budget is underpinned by a body of evidence including draft delivery plans from each Research Council.

The DIUS Director General of Science and Research (DGSR) has committed to wider consultation in the run up to the next Spending Review. As a starting point, any consulting will satisfy the following principles:

    —  Consultation will be wide-ranging and visible to ensure it is of high quality and has the confidence of the community

    —  Consultation will not be at the disciplinary level

  The DGSR has asked the following bodies to provide formal advice:

    —  The Royal Society

    —  The Royal Academy of Engineering

    —  The British Academy

    —  The Council for Science and Technology

    —  The Chief Scientific Advisers Committee

    —  The Confederation for British Industry

  The process of consultation would involve the following steps:

    —  Early in the process, the DGSR would attend a Council meeting of each of the above bodies for a discussion around the core issues.

    —  Each of the above bodies would publicly submit advice to the DGSR at two stages in the process:

    —  Before the departmental submission is sent to Treasury

    —  After the departmental allocation is received from Treasury but before the allocations to each Research Council are made

  At least twice during the process the DGSR will chair a meeting of the Chairs/Presidents of each of the above bodies to discuss the advice given in plenary.

3.4.1  Research Base Funders Forum

  The Research Base Funders Forum was set up to allow governmental and non-governmental funders of public good research to consider the collective impact of their strategies on the sustainability, health and outputs of the Research Base. The Forum meets quarterly and is chaired by DIUS's Director General Science and Research. Its members come from charities, industry, Research Councils, Funding Councils, Regional Development Agencies, the Higher Education sector and government departments.

3.5  Reporting Progress on the 10 Year Framework

The Science and Innovation Investment Framework (SIIF) Annual Report provides a regular update on Government progress against the six main aspirations of the original document to :-

    —  increase the global competitiveness of UK research and its sustainability;

    —  increase knowledge transfer from universities and research institutes;

    —  increase business investment and engagement with the science base;

    —  retain a strong supply of scientists, technologists and engineers;

    —  build understanding and improve public attitudes to science;

    —  ensure Government uses the highest quality science and scientific advice.

  As a framework document it provides scope for change and development in policy to achieve the Government's long term vision for UK science and innovation. For example, since 2004, the Government has published the Innovation White Paper (Innovation Nation, March 2008) and last month published the first Annual Innovation Report. The 2008 SIIF Annual Report is available at www.dius.gov.uk/policy/annual_innovation_report.html

3.6  Supporting Public Engagement

  Science and engineering improve the quality of daily life, underpin prosperity and increase our readiness to face the challenges of the future, both in the UK and globally. The potential for science and engineering to contribute to good policy making and sound government has never been greater. Our ability to meet the challenges depends on our ability to handle the science and engineering involved, by accessing sound scientific advice, and by engaging with the public.

Having an engaged public means recognising that science and engineering is not just a body of facts, but a discipline with established methods of inquiry, peer-review and governance. It means understanding that science and engineering is often about measuring uncertainty and allowing ordinary people to better challenge what they read about and understand different forms of scientific evidence.

  The ten-year Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014 and its subsequent annual reports highlighted the importance that the Government attaches to greater public confidence and improved engagement in scientific research and its innovative applications. The ten-year framework set an objective to:

    "demonstrate improvement against a variety of measures, such as trends in public attitudes, public confidence, media coverage, and acknowledgements and responsiveness to public concerns by policy-makers and scientists".

  In 2008 DIUS began a wide-ranging consultation on a future UK strategy for the relationship between science and society. The consultation covers topics around the themes of public engagement in science, development of a representative STEM workforce and greater confidence in both public and private sector use of science. Following the consultation, which closed in October 2008, a long-term strategy will be developed with an implementation plan for publication in early 2009. The consultation document suggested that there is a pressing need to do two things:

    —  strengthen the level of high quality engagement with the public on all major issues; and

    —  increase the number of people who study scientific subjects and work in research and scientific careers.

  The Government's public engagement with science programme continues to provide a lead in encouraging open, constructive and informed debate on the social, ethical, health, safety and environmental implications of new and emerging science and technologies. Key achievements in the last year on building engagement and improving public attitudes to science, include:

    —  the launch of a wide-ranging consultation to develop a UK strategy for Science and Society;

    —  publication of the results of the third Public Attitudes to Science survey;

    —  launch of the Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre for Public Dialogue in Science and Technology in response to the Council for Science and Technology's recommendation to create a corporate memory of engagement practice;

    —  increase in the National Science and Engineering Week's media impact and development of an expanded UK Young Scientists' and Engineers' Fair with a National Science Competition element;

  As part of a long term initiative to raise public interest and commitment to science (involving a broad range of stakeholders including Government, media and business) Lord Drayson will launch the 'Science…So What?' PR campaign in January 2009. The aim of this campaign is to make a concerted effort (drawing on good news stories from Research Councils, universities, academies and other bodies) to increase the visibility of UK science and the benefits it brings to society and the economy. A key part of this approach is to involve Science champions that have broad public appeal (from a popular rather than scientific base). The campaign will integrate with other campaign activities during 2009 such as Darwin 2009, and National Science and Engineering Week.

January 2008

1   Analysis for Policy: Evidence-based policy in practice (GSR, 2007)
www.gsr.gov.uk/downloads/resources/pu256_160407.pdf  Back

2   Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees, Government Office for Science, December 2007. Available at
www.dius.gov.uk/publications/file42780.pdf Back

3   Guidelines on Scientific Analysis in Policy Making www.dius.gov.uk/policy/science_guidance/documents/file9767.pdf  Back

4   How academia and government can work together
www.cst.gov.uk/cst/reports/files/academia-government.pdf  Back

5   Innovation Nation
http://www.dius.gov.uk/publications/innovation-nation.html Back

6   The Race to the Top
www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/sainsbury_review_index.htm Back

7   Annual Innovation Report 2008
www.dius.gov.uk/policy/annual_innovation_report.html Back

8   Q195 (Dr Turner)-www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmdius/c999-ii/c99902.htm  Back

9   Science and innovation investment framework 2004-14
www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/spending_sr04_science.htm Back

10   Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014, HM Treasury, July 2004.
http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/spending_review/spend_sr04/associated_documents/spending_sr04_science.cfm Back

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