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

Annex C


How academia and Government can work together

  1.  CST were asked by John Denham to investigate ways in which the interaction between academia and policy makers in Government could be improved.

2.  The main message from CST was that academics and policy makers have a healthy level of engagement and goodwill, but more needed to be done to strengthen the relationship to ensure informed, evidence-based policy making. These include world-class exchange mechanisms between academics and policy-makers; strengthening the roles of Departmental Chief Scientists; encouraging universities to act more like consultancy organisations; and devising better mechanisms to rate, value and reward the relationship.

Strategic decision making for technology policy

3.  CST developed a priority-setting framework for decision-making that could be used by Government to make better choices between competing areas for technology funding.

4.  Using this framework, CST identified six key technology areas which extra resource from Government would deliver returns to the UK within a five-year timeframe: Carbon Capture and Storage, Disaster Mitigation Technologies, Low Carbon Distribution Networks for Electricity Supply, Medical Devices, E-Health, and Plastic Electronics.

Public Engagement: policy through dialogue

  5.  CST's Policy through dialogue report encouraged government to do more to engage the public in the development of science and technology-based policies, or risk jeopardising the economic and social gains expected from the ten-year investment framework for science and innovation.

6.  The Council has responded to the 2008 Government consultation on Science and Society and will shortly be publishing a review it carried out in parallel on progress in embedding dialogue and engagement mechanisms in Government departments. Although the review identifies examples of good practice—in areas such as radioactive waste management and food standards—and whilst the UK has a competitive advantage over most countries in public dialogue, more is needed in terms of Government using best practice in dialogue across departments. There is a need to adopt an explicit framework for public dialogue which is responsive to different circumstances, and to prioritise areas for dialogue, particularly on longstanding "legacy" issues. Nanotechnology is an area where public engagement and strategic research need to be pursued in parallel.

Pathways to the future : the early career of researchers in the UK

  7.  CST made recommendations on how the management of researchers at the start of their careers could be improved in order to make a research career a more attractive option. It recommendrd the development of a national framework for research careers, and giving research staff greater independence at an earlier stage. It was an important component to help RCUK revise its Concordat on research.

8.  CST is one of the official supporters of the Concordat. The Council believes that the seven key principles listed in the revised Concordat are important as a single unambiguous statement of the expectations and responsibilities placed on researchers, and on their managers, employers and funding bodies, and that having a robust implementation plan will be crucial for success.

Nanosciences and nanotechnologies: a review of Government's progress on its policy commitments

  9.  The Review by the CST concluded that the Government had made good progress in many areas, including support for and dialogue with industry and international engagement, and on metrology and support for standards, but that it must commission more work on the toxicology, health and environmental effects of nanomaterials to assess risks, reassure the public and put in place regulation as necessary.

Health Impacts—a strategy across Government

10.  The CST's recommendations emphasised the need to embed health considerations at a very early stage of policy development in a common and consistent way across Government; and address the quality and availability of the evidence and the need for public engagement and dialogue.

Services sector and public procurement

11.  CST set out the challenge for Government to understand the needs of services sector companies, and to foster innovation by finding ways to connect them to the research base.

12.  The Council also set out how Government can better meet its own objectives and stimulate innovation in business through better use of public procurement.

Better use of personal information: opportunities and risks

  13.  CST's report set out how the use of personal data by government offers enormous benefits, with the potential to create more efficient and accessible public services, but that the risks must be addressed in order to secure these benefits. Key recommendations included the need for engagement with the public and civil society groups, regulatory and governance frameworks to minimise risks, and the need for research into privacy enhancing technologies.

An electricity supply strategy for the UK

14.  CST's report recommended immediate investment in large scale, low-carbon, energy generation facilities to meet the Government's carbon dioxide reduction targets; the need to keep the nuclear option open and place more emphasis on carbon sequestration and tidal power.

15.  It also recommended greater investment in R&D aimed at new and renewable energy sources, energy management and storage; improving the supply and training of skilled workers in the UK; investment in the development of the national grid to facilitate distributed and diverse generation and the need to address regulatory issues arising from this form of generation.

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