Submission from the CBI
The CBI believes there is no need
for a regional science policyit should be a UK national
policy, centrally coordinated and championed, but a new Department
for Science is not required Science and engineering
advice should be a core input to the formulation of policy across
government, not just in science and engineering-specific areas.
Social science expertise must also become more prominent in policy
advice A conscious reassessment of public Research
and Development (R&D) and technology funding is required to
ensure the UK is well positioned to emerge strongly from the economic
Science and society policy must seek
to influence people from an early age about the value of science,
and government must play a more active part using social marketing
and other techniques.
1. As the UK's leading business organisation,
the CBI speaks for some 240,000 businesses that together
employ around a third of the private sector workforce, covering
the full spectrum of business interests both by sector and by
size. The CBI welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to this
inquiry on science and engineering policy. We also draw your attention
to our more detailed submission to the committee's inquiry on
engineering in May 2008many of the issues we raised are
2. Our response focuses on four themes within
the call for evidence: the science and engineering policy landscape,
science and engineering in policy formulation, science and society
issues, and the Haldane Principle.
3. The current science and engineering policy
landscape in the UK is too fragmented across too many bodies.
The fragments do not join upor at least it is often not
clear how they join upand it is sometimes difficult to
determine which organisation, group or individual has lead responsibility
on different issues. The CBI believes this has to change. If the
UK is to stay competitive internationally, through investment
in the science and engineering skills and research base and effective
use of science and engineering expertise in policy formulation,
then the UK must have a strong and coherent science and engineering
strategy. This strategy should be centrally coordinated and championed
and the sum total must be greater than its constituent parts.
4. We do not see the need for science and engineering
policy to change across regional boundaries within the UK. The
regions and devolved administrations should act together to ensure
the UK can build and maintain a critical mass of science and engineering
activity. Instead of duplicating effort in different regions and
spreading resources too thinly, the regions and central government
should work together to define and deliver a single strategy.
5. Similarly, other key government-funded
science and engineering policy stakeholders (eg the Research and
Funding Councils, professional societies, delivery bodies and
agencies) should work more closely together to identify synergies,
address gaps and maximize impact. A key objective should be to
slim down the current proliferation of policy effort so business,
universities, public and third sector users of science and engineering
can have greater confidence that the system will be responsive
to their needs.
6. Science and engineering policy should
not, however, be constrained within a separate Department for
Science. DIUS should continue in its overall UK leadership role
on science and engineering, but, working with the Government Office
for Science and other key stakeholders, should act more as a champion
of science and engineering in government and across the economy
and society. This is a time to consolidate and focus on delivery,
rather than deflecting effort by digging up the system to create
7. Science and engineering are required
across all aspects of government, and leadership is required in
each area. Progress has been made in recent years by developing
the role of the Chief Scientific Adviser and creating chief scientific
adviser positions (sometimes with independent expert advisory
committees in support) in most government departments and some
key agencies. This system should continue to develop so that the
chief scientists have direct involvement and influence over R&D
spending and policy formulation and oversight of executionthis
is not yet the case for all departments. Chief Engineer or Chief
Technology Officer positions should also be considered, to ensure
that departments and agencies have appropriate expertise in these
areas and, in particular, so they can tap effectively into state
of the art developments in business and academia.
8. We welcome the government's commitment
in the Innovation Nation white paper to produce an annual
innovation review. The first report (published in December 2008)
provides a benchmark against which to judge progress in future
years and this reporting should become a core part of the scrutiny
process for innovation. Evidence of public procurement being used
to catalyse business investment in innovation should be one of
the key reporting measures. A similar approach should also be
taken for reporting on and evaluating science and engineering.
This could cover the government's approach to science and engineering
investment (which may overlap with some of the innovation review
reporting) and how it has used science and engineering advice
and evidence in policy.
9. Incorporating an element of independent
external review would make this an even more valuable exercise.
10. Increasing the number of qualified scientists
and engineers in parliament and throughout the UK civil service,
in particular in senior positions, would provide a more effective
basis for policy making across government.
11. The views of the science and engineering
communities should be included as a central component of all policy
formulation, not just in the formulation of science and engineering
policy. At present science and engineering involvement is marginal,
typically on a case by case basis, and typically only where there
are obvious science, engineering or R&D issues to address.
12. Scientists and engineers can bring the
technical and practical expertise needed to judge the full depth
and impact of decisions and may be in a position to suggest innovative
solutions to intractable policy problems. Scientists and engineers
also have particular expertise in modelling scenarios, which could
prove invaluable in determining the sensitivity and resilience
of policy to changes in relevant factors. In addition, they may
be more willing to "think the unthinkable" and test
policy assumptions and evidence to destruction "in the lab"
before wider release.
13. It is important for social scientists
to be included in the "scientists" category too as an
increasing number of policy areas require solutions that have
both technical and social dimensions. For example, influencing
behaviour change is likely to be one of the most important components
of policy in coming years where effective social science input
will be essential. Perhaps the most critical policy area for this
will be in meeting our climate change obligations, where substantial,
sustained and pervasive behaviour change is likely to be required,
alongside major technological developments.
14. Greater use should be made of short-term
appointments for scientists and engineers within government in
order to attract the best minds and avoid stagnation. A model
for this can be found in the US Defence Research Projects Agency
(DARPA). It should become a normal ambition for high flying technologists
to have had a 3-5 year engagement within government on their
15. The Haldane Principle has already evolved
significantly since it was first set out in the 1918 Haldane
Report on the Machinery of Government.
It is now interpreted to mean that decisions on what to research
should be in the hands of researchers and made on scientific criteria,
at arms' length from political considerations. The original Haldane
Report made no such recommendation. Instead, it proposed a split
in government funded research so that delivery departments would
focus on specific forms of research of relevance to their work
(eg in health, transport and defence etc), whereas general research
should be the responsibility of a separate organisation in government.
The intention was to improve the provision of knowledge to underpin
policy and free general research from departmental bias, while
maintaining direct Ministerial control over research funding decisions.
16. The majority of public funding for research
is now delivered at arm's length from central government through
the Research and Funding Councils (c. £5.3 billion per
year), with DIUS as the department ultimately responsible. Through
the peer review and research assessment mechanisms, this "science
and engineering base" funding is, by and large, controlled
by the researchers themselves. The other delivery departments
are responsible for c. £4.3 billion per year (£1.7 billion
civil, £2.6 billion defence) of public research spending.
17. Within both the science and engineering
base and delivery department streams, our concern now is less
about departmental bias and political interferencealthough
it is important to keep these under reviewand more about
the funding for different types of work within the R&D spectrum.
18. We strongly support the emphasis placed
by the Technology Strategy Board and Research Councils on research
to address major challenges facing the economy, society and environment,
but recognise that pure curiosity-driven research also has a critical
role to play. The question that needs to be asked is, has the
right balance been struck between the two? Similarly, has the
right balance been struck between funding for research versus
funding for development ("R vs. D")? In both
cases we say no.
19. Support for user-focused and challenge-led
research has increased in recent years,
but the UK still lacks the mission-driven ethos that is prevalent
in competitor countries such as the US, where DARPA, NASA and
other agencies lead the way in engaging business and universities
to find solutions to real world problems.
20. Public support at the "D"
end of the R&D spectrum also needs to be improved. Civil department
and agency funding for experimental and technological development
as a proportion of overall public R&D spending is as much
as six times higher in the US than it is in the UK.
It is in the development and demonstration phases of new technology
that the highest costs ariseas research ideas are taken
through to prototypes, validation, scale-up and readiness for
marketand it is here where the UK must increase its investment
to build a competitive advantage for the economy.
21. The government could also do much more
to link development spending to public procurement, using its
£175 billion per year purchasing power to help pull
through innovation and catalyse further investment by business.
There is widespread recognition of the need for this, but, in
reality, little progress has been made. The government should
"raise the bar" when producing tenders as an incentive
for business to invest in building their capabilityhelping
UK businesses compete internationallyand generating solutions
that will find a wider market.
22. A conscious reassessment of public R&D
and technology funding is now required to ensure the UK is well
positioned to emerge strongly from the economic downturn. We recommend
supporting the acceleration of technology development in the short
and medium term, linked to major challenges and procurement opportunities,
while ensuring that our investment in basic research remains world-leading.
23. Public engagement with, and confidence
in, science and engineering is essential for the future of the
UK economy and society. Engagement in the science and engineering
policy debate is also important as new discoveries challenge our
understanding and help to shape the future. We described business
interest in these issues in our input to the recent DIUS consultation
on science and society.
24. To be effective, a new science and society
strategy will require concerted action on three fronts: to improve
skills "supply chain", to bring a wider understanding
of science and technology into everyday life, and to engage the
public on key science and technology issues as they develop.
25. Engagement with science must start at
an early age. It is important that school children are taught
science by competent, appropriately qualified and enthusiastic
teachers and for these teachers to have the science labs, materials
and technical support they need to teach effectively. There should
be a focus on practical experience, problem solving and understanding
what happens in the "black boxes" of technology. The
Digital Britain action plan provides a useful focus for stressing
the importance of digital applications, as well as creativity,
in a better-connected broadband world.
26. Careers advice must be improved dramatically
to challenge misperceptions about science and engineering degrees
and career prospects. Particular emphasis must be placed on encouraging
girls and women into science and engineering education and careers
to create a balanced workforce with the skills and experience
required for the future. Continued effort is also needed to retain
qualified women in science and engineering careers to address
the disproportionate flow of women into other disciplines and
out of the work force.
27. There has to be an end to the current
state of affairs in which many school children, sections of society
and some media presenters believe it is "cool to be thick"
when it comes to science. The value of STEM to society and our
way of life must be made more explicitboth in the curriculum
and in everyday life. In our science and society submission, we
proposed a campaign to provide scientific, technological and other
information about products, processes and services at their point
of use. This social marketing campaign should be wide-ranging
and pervasive, primarily factual, but also designed to create
debate. Public service broadcasting obligations should be used
to catalyse change: ensuring that "bad science" can
be de-bunked and making it unacceptable for presenters to condone
a lack of STEM awareness.
28. Government should also take a lead on
paving the way for future technology developments to be integrated
into society. An in-depth and on-going public dialogue effort
on key science-based challenges and new technologies is required,
which the government will need to sponsor. This engagement should
encourage informed public debate on risk and uncertainty, potential
and impacts, priorities, choice and UK ambition. It must seek
to build public trust and confidence, explore issues of concern
and commit to addressing them.
29. Discussions should cover issues such
as: stem cells and regenerative medicine; emerging diseases; what
changes will be required for individuals to adapt to/mitigate
climate change; and how far we should allow autonomous systems
to take over from human control (eg in transportation, medical
and other scenarios). The topics are likely to be controversial,
but creating awareness and understanding early on will help to
position the UK well to deal with future challenges. It may also
help to seed demand for new products and services that will have
knock-on benefits for the UK economy and society.
28 Report of the Machinery of Government Committee,
Ministry of Reconstruction, Cmd 9230, 1918. Also see discussion
in HM Treasury paper, Historical overview of government health
research policy, for the Cooksey Review, September 2006. Back
The general research to which Haldane referred would now be called
basic research. Back
For example with the creation of the Technology Strategy Board.
There is also a business research element in HEFCE's QR funding
(although this is only £61 million out of £1.46 billion-and
we argued in our follow-up to the Lambert Review that it should
be £200 million per year) and RAE2008 appears to
have given greater recognition to research excellence beyond that
judged by academic peer review of academic publications. Back
CBI analysis on R vs. D to be published in spring 2009. Back
CBI submission to the DIUS Science & Society consultation:
STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Back