Submission from the UK Computing Research
1. Our evidence covers UK research in computing,
which is internationally strong and vigorous, and a major national
2. We support the work of the Council for Science
and Technology and the Cabinet Sub-committee on Science and Innovation
but see the creation of a new Department for Science and Technology
as a potentially more effective medium for bringing Science and
Engineering to the heart of government.
3. UKCRC strongly supports the Haldane Principle
as originally stated.
4. UKCRC does not support the case for a
regional science policy in determining the allocation of government
funding as this would lead to a weakening of the Haldane Principle.
However, we do recognise that the UK has been less successful
is utilising EU Structural and Cohesion funds to support science
and technology and we argue for regional policies to address this.
5. The UK Computing Research Committee (UKCRC),
an Expert Panel of the British Computer Society, the Institution
of Engineering and Technology and the Council of Professors and
Heads of Computing, was formed in November 2000 as a policy
committee for computing research in the UK. Its members are leading
computing researchers from UK academia and industry. Our evidence
reflects the experience of researchers who each have an established
international reputation in computing.
6. The UK has always been exceptionally strong
in computing research: the first modern computer was developed
at Manchester University and ran its first program in June 1948;
since that time, the UK has played a part in almost all the scientific
and engineering advances in computing. Computer systems have transformed
modern life but the world is still in the early stages of discovering,
inventing and exploiting its full potential. UK computing research
and is a national asset that enhances the UK's international prestige,
attracts inwards investment, and supports innovation for wealth
creation and improved quality of life.
7. Computing is at the heart of almost every
Government policy because almost every such policy requires new,
and usually very complex, IT systems.
8. The projects to produce these systems
have often overrun and both the projects and operational systems
have often failed with concomitant delays in the implementation
of Government policy and huge cost to Treasury. The scientific
and engineering principles that could have helped to avoid most
of the problems are well-understood and practical. Moreover,
the requirement for modern computing science and software engineering
at the heart of Government policy implementation has been presented
in evidence to several Select Committee Inquiries over the past
decade by UKCRC, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the professional
institutions. Until this is understood, it would be foolish to
believe that the UK can take a lead in the knowledge based economy
or be able to implement Government policy in an effective way.
9. A hope has been expressed that closer
integration of Computing Science and Software Engineering into
public procurement of IT products could reduce delivery delays
and costs, as well as the risk of failure, often embarrassingly
The need for a Department of Science
10. The Council for Science and Technology
does valuable work but only meets on a quarterly basis. The Cabinet
Sub-Committee on Science and Innovation is sub-committee of the
Cabinet Committee for Economic Development and therefore only
reports to Cabinet indirectly. Whilst UKCRC supports both of
these initiatives, neither could be said to put science and engineering
at the heart of policy-making. UKCRC supports the creation of
a Department for Science and Technology but fears were expressed
that this could become a mechanism for packaging scientific evidence
to fit the prevailing political orthodoxy; adequate mechanisms
must be put in place to prevent this.
Strengths and weaknesses of the Government's current
approach to formulating science and engineering policy
11. The creation of Departmental Chief Scientific
Advisors and Scientific Advisory Councils has been a major advance
in strengthening the Government's approach to formulating science
and engineering policy.
12. UKCRC endorses the recent report by the Council
for Science and Technology on "How academia and government
can work together" which makes a number of key recommendations
including the creation of exchange mechanisms (internships and
secondments) and greater access to Ministers and ministerial buy-in
to the creation of Scientific Advisory Councils.
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. UKCRC believes that the views of the
science and engineering community should inform the formulation
of government policy. We have already elaborated on the computer
science arguments in the Introduction.
14. UKCRC believes that the science and engineering
community should be more involved in how the success of any consultation
The case for a regional science policy
15. UKCRC strongly supports the Haldane
Principle as originally stated. We are concerned that Government
influence on the Research Councils' delivery plans and the effective
top-slicing of RCUK funds to support initiatives such as the Energy
Technologies Institute and the Technology Strategy Board diverts
funding away from fundamental science and technology research.
16. Many of our EU partners make effective use
of EU Structural and Cohesion Funds to support science and innovation;
one example is the recent collaborations between the Portuguese
Government and US universities (MIT and Carnegie Mellon University).
The newly formed Board of the European Institute of Innovation
and Technology (EIT) are expecting participants to use these funds
to partially fill the funding gap between the Commission's allocated
budget and the projected running costs (a gap of some 2 billion
over the next four years). The UK does not appear to have been
as effective as our EU partners in deploying these funds to support
science and engineering and the regions have an important role
to play here.
17. A regional science policy should not
be used to influence the allocation of national funding and hence
undermine the Haldane Principle still further.
Scrutiny of government science and engineering
18. We support the work of the Innovation,
Universities, Science and Skills Committee and feel that its regular
calls for evidence provide for an effective scrutiny of government
science and engineering policy. Should the Government decide
to create a new Department for Science and Technology, we would
expect the scope of the IUSS Committee to be appropriately enlarged.
22 This has been confirmed by successive EPSRC International
Reviews, the latest of which reported in 2007. Back