Submission from the Natural History Museum
1. The Natural History Museum (NHM) maintains
and develops its collections and uses them to promote the discovery,
understanding, responsible use and enjoyment of the natural world.
Our science explores the diversity of the natural world and the
processes that generate such diversity. NHM is one of the world's
leading institutions for systematics and taxonomy: these are areas
of science that are intrinsic to the scientific understanding,
monitoring and conservation of biodiversity.
2. The expertise of 350 NHM scientists and
its natural history collection of 70 million items are the
basis for international integrated research on the natural world;
provision of collections access to many scientists; development;
provision of information resources; and education and public engagement.
Its broad role as a museum is inseparable from its science: it
enables the NHM to take innovative approaches to public engagement
in science and the natural world. It combines skills and pursues
collaboration to meet constantly changing needs in many countries.
3. NHM research is centred on taxonomy and
related disciplines. It describes what organisms exist and how
they interact; where they are; and how diversity changes and develops.
This work integrates taxonomy with other areas of research. Our
summarises the wider scientific questions to which taxonomy contributes
in the Museum and through collaboration: these include biodiversity
conservation and loss.
4. The Museum's work enables natural diversity
to be described and understood. Research and monitoring for biodiversity,
ecosystem services and climate change relies on taxonomy in investigating
diversity, monitoring changes, and modelling vulnerability; policy-makers
need information that is underpinned by taxonomy; capacity building
and training involve taxonomic expertise; public initiatives and
engagement routinely involve taxonomy.
5. The Museum has recently made a submission
to the inquiry of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science
and Technology on the state of systematics and taxonomy research:
the subject of the House of Lords inquiry is relevant to some
of the concerns of the present inquiry.
6. We welcome the opportunity to provide
this submission to this inquiry and endorse the need for a wider
discussion on the issues it raises.
1. Whether the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Science
and Innovation and the Council for Science and Technology put
science and engineering at the heart of policy-making and whether
there should be a Department for Science?
7. We support the government's ambitions
for embedding evidence-based policy-making and raising scientific
considerations across the policy spectrum through the Chief Scientific
Advisers network. The Cabinet Sub-Committee and the CST provide
potential for appropriate involvement of Ministers and senior
scientists from outside government.
8. CST appears to have a relatively low level
of activity, albeit on important topics and there would be benefit
in defining its role as part of a spectrum of bodies offering
analysis and advice both inside government and beyond.
9. Science is not isolated from society
or government policy, so it is vital that it is embedded across
all departments. However, there is value in a specialist enabling
focus for science policy.
2. How Government formulates science and engineering
policy (strengths and weaknesses of the current system)?
10. We support the government's ambitions
for wider consultation in policy-making, especially with the public.
11. The need to demonstrate public value by publicly-funded
organisations is critical in order to build trust and ownership
of the public realm. Engaging the public in science policy-making
should make policy more successful. We would encourage policy
makers to recognise the value of the public's knowledge and value
the process, as well as the results of engagement. Support for
longitudinal research to explore the actual outcomes of prolonged
public engagement in individuals and sectors of society would
be of use.
12. We would encourage the creation of citizen
panels for consultation and measurement purposes, as well as to
make individual science research institutions more transparent
in order to build public confidence in science.
3. Whether the views of the science and engineering
community are, or should be, central to the formulation of government
policy, and how the success of any consultation is assessed?
13. We believe that the science and engineering
community is in fact an overarching grouping consisting of a number
of communities and that this reference is does not acknowledge
this. Some operate coherently as networks of expertise and interest
while others do not: their capacity to engage on policy differs
accordingly. This coherence is not necessarily aligned with the
importance of policy development. Policy-makers must acknowledge
this in their thinking.
14. We believe that the science and engineering
community should contribute to the formulation of government policy
and be explicitly involved, but not necessarily as the only stakeholder.
15. Science should be an element in all
government policy-making and there should be greater awareness
across government of how policy impacts the science and engineering
4. The case for a regional science policy
(versus national science policy) and whether the Haldane principle
16. We recognise the importance of the Haldane
principle and this should remain an essential element in maintaining
the international competitiveness of the UK in science. The partial
shift of research funds to direct government administration since
1971 is important in tying research to policy, but constant
efforts must be made to ensure that government is able to make
good decisions on policy-related funding. This can only be achieved
by involvement of scientists as civil servants or expert advisers.
17. Science is an international activity and
therefore requires national policy to ensure the UK remains competitive
and develops critical mass. However, we do believe that a regional
focus would be useful for technology transfer and public understanding
5. Engaging the public and increasing public
confidence in science and engineering policy?
18. We believe that increasing public participation
in science and raising scientific literacy levels is vital to
society and to ensure the UK economy remains competitive.
19. The Natural History Museum is uniquely placed
as a world-class science research institute and cultural visitor
attraction where we engage our visitors with our scientists to
create a better understanding of scientific issues, how science
works and to encourage more students to study science and view
science as an attractive career option. The Museum acts as a catalyst
for a wider network of public engagement with science.
20. There is a wealth of expertise in science
communication in a number of established venues and a wider recognition
of the value of public engagement with science. The Museum aims
to attract more large and diverse audiences, and free admission
has assisted in increasing our visitor numbers. We offer creative
and innovative galleries and science education programmes that
aim to stimulate interest in how science works and recognition
of the value of science. We have experience of engaging with difficult
to reach groups by making science accessible through specific
21. The need to work with the media is obviously
important to combat the public's and media's mistrust of science
and in order to generate a greater interest and understanding
in scientific issues.
22. There is a need for greater cross-sector
working to achieve national and European science and society objectives.
We endorse the Government's support for national public engagement
campaigns, like Darwin200.
23. We would encourage policy makers to
use trusted intermediaries, like the Natural History Museum, for
facilitating greater dialogue between policy-makers, scientists
and society. People already visit places like the Museum and we
are equipped with specialised skills and spaces for this type
6. The role of GO-Science, DIUS and other
Government departments, charities, learned societies, Regional
Development Agencies, industry and other stakeholders in determining
UK science and engineering policy?
24. All the stakeholders mentioned should
be able to explicitly contribute to science and engineering policy.
Policy-making needs to recognise the diversity of these stakeholders
who are funders or consumers of science, or a mixture of both.
7. How government science and engineering
policy should be scrutinised?
25. We believe that both the House of Commons
Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee and the
House of Lords Science and Technology Committee play a crucial
role in scrutinising the government's science and engineering
26. Scientific advice to government and the government's
total expenditure on research should be more transparent and open,
to a certain degree to wider public scrutiny, both directly and
through the aforementioned Parliamentary Committees.
21 http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/science-directorate/science-policies-strategy/assets/researchframework.pdf Back