Submission from Imperial College London
Science and engineering challenges
in the 21st Century are global, involving "big science",
work across traditional academic disciplines and require multidisciplinary,
often multi-national approaches. Science and engineering
policy-making must be underpinned by academic rigour and credibility
and efforts should be made to improve this. Universities have
a major role to play in enabling academic input and in understanding
and resolving issues. The general public is increasingly
aware of the importance of science and engineering in tackling
important issues. Scientists and engineers should be incentivised
to make their work accessible and understandable to the public.
An evidence-based approach to policy-making
is supported strongly and we agree with the wide consensus on
the value of science in our society.
The structures in place to deliver
and scrutinise policy in Government are appropriate but need to
be expanded, strengthened and further empowered where appropriate.
We support the Haldane Principle,
since it enables flexibility and ensures that issues are addressed
in the most transparent manner. However, it needs to be examined
to ensure excellence is not compromised by regional policies.
Regional issues can be dealt with
in the context of national policies.
Our response to the specific questions posed
in the inquiry is detailed in the paragraphs below:
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
1. We agree that science and engineering
should be at the heart of policy making and believe that the current
structure is appropriate but believe that it should be strengthened
and empowered by, for example enabling National Academies and
Universities to strengthen their evidence-based policy advice
2. We do not believe that a Department for Science
would be in the best interests of science or the UK economy.
Science increasingly addresses global challenges that are inter/multi-disciplinary
and that are very closely linked to the innovation pipeline.
In this way, science contributes to the global economy and will
play its part in addressing the current financial crisis. It
is therefore key that the Government Department which oversees
science also has innovation on its agenda. A close link with
education is also essential to enable high quality learning and
teaching for the next generation of researchers and policy-makers.
The creation of a separate Department of Science could silo science
How Government formulates science and engineering
policy (strengths and weaknesses of the current system)
3. We support the current practice of a
Chief Scientific Advisor being located in every Government Department
and the work of the CSA should increasingly be mainstreamed.
4. We support the evidence-based approach to
policy-making and welcome the increasing use of "think tanks"
and wide consultation. Greater transparency, is to be encouraged,
including publicising policy consultations more effectively and
rewarding time and expertise given to contributing to policy making.
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
5. Scientific policy making must have academic
rigour and credibility. Efforts should be made to improve this.
For example, we agree with the measures proposed in the recent
submission from the Council for Science and Technology to DIUS
on Academia and Public Policy Making (http://www.dius.gov.uk/policy/academia_and_public_policy.html).
As a top UK University, Imperial College is pursuing a leading
role in driving more proactive and productive links between its
academics and Government decision makers. A pioneering example
is the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial founded
in 2007, with the twin goals of both generating the highest quality
research on climate science and climate-driven change, and translating
this research into sustainable technological, political and socio-economic
responses to inform Government decision making. With its more
recently formed sister institute at LSE, the Grantham Institute
aims to provide solutions to the big policy challenges building
on Imperial's scientific and technological expertise. Building
on the Grantham model, Imperial has now established similar institutes
in 3 other top priority areas: energy futures, global health
6. The success of policy arising from consultations
should be measured. This could be based on a Scorecard approach,
such that clear objectives are set out at the beginning of the
consultation and the outcomes reviewed against these objectives.
Metrics could include the number and quality of responses received,
the level of spread across stakeholders and, importantly, the
extent to which the policy has taken account of the views put
forward. Greater transparency of the way in which the consultation
has influenced policy would be welcomed.
The case for a regional science policy (versus
national science policy) and whether the Haldane principle needs
7. Whilst we recognise that local universities
working with local companies is not a bad thing, we would not
wish this to be at the expense of national and international collaborations.
Science is global and should not be directed by narrow regional
8. There may, however, be a case for an over-riding
regional issue to inform, or drive national science policy.
For example, supporting and delivering the innovation pipeline
within the research intensive, yet expensive M25 boundary
may drive a national policy on the provision of incubator space.
9. We support the Haldane principle as it
currently stands. We would welcome re-confirmation and re-statement
of its definition and application.
Engaging the public and increasing public confidence
in science and engineering policy
10. The public perception (often conveyed
as mistrust) of science must be improved, such that it is seen
as engaging and important. It must be seen as something which
everyone can contribute to, at least in some way. Schools have
an important role to play here.
11. It is essential that positive action is taken
to ensure the public is better informed about science and engineering,
how science and engineering impact on policy and how individuals
can contribute and make a difference to policy development.
12. Whilst we recognise the value of the
work undertaken by the Royal Society, other Learned Societies,
museums etc, all organisations concerned with science and engineering
should continue to work proactively with the public to tell them
how exciting science and engineering is and to involve them in
developing policy. For Universities, this might include establishing
science and society and policy centres, holding more public lectures,
developing roving exhibitions, holding open days, running consultations
etc. Such activities must be funded and recognised and rewarded
13. To this end, Imperial College London
has recently funded and established a science and engineering
policy centre that will take account of the views of its scientists
and engineers and the wider community to contribute to Government
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
14. All such organisations have an important
role to play in developing science and engineering policy but
it is important that advice is as independent as possible and
that financial and inter-departmental funding considerations do
not unduly influence the funding outcomes. Transparency of
process and outcomes of their deliberations is also important.
15. Universities themselves have an important
role in determining such policy since academic staff are at the
cutting edge of research developments.
How government science and engineering policy
should be scrutinised
16. The role of the Innovation, Universities
and Skills Select Committee is crucial in the scrutiny of government
science and engineering policy.