Submission from the John Innes Centre
John Innes Centre
supports the concept of a Department
for Science, despite the risks would welcome further
development of cross-department policy formation and cross-council
approaches to funding believes that UK science career
structure is weak and policy needs to be addressed welcomes
the Government's efforts to consult more widely in policy formulation
and would welcome the opportunity to contribute to a broader range
of research issues
agrees that the Haldane
principle should continue to be embraced
supports the widest engagement in
policy development, driven by a central vision of what the UK
can best deliver, based upon its strengths within publically-funded
Q1. 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. The John Innes Centre welcomes the recent
appointment of a Cabinet-level Science Minister.
2. Science funding policy does not yet adequately
reflect science as the cornerstone of the knowledge based economy
on which the nation's future prosperity depends.
3. A Department for Science is needed to
sustain and extend current scientific activity to the benefit
of UK GNP. However, there is a risk that the creation of a Department
for Science could lessen the perceived importance of science more
broadly in Government.
4. The inclusion of "Science"
in the title of DIUS would be welcome.
5. Attention should focus on making the
relatively new departmental structure and other existing structures
as effective as possible ensuring that science and research feed
into evidence-based policy making.
Q2. How Government formulates science and
engineering policy (strengths and weaknesses of the current system)
6. JIC acknowledges that Government has
been largely supportive of science through improved funding, and
stimulation of open debate of scientific issues in relation to
7. JIC would welcome the development of mechanisms
for effective cross-departmental coordination of policies, which
draw on the wider research base. Government has a key role in
fostering greater inter-council co-operation in funding large
8. Government needs to take into account
the fact that cycles for scientific delivery are much longer than
political cycles and, having agreed policy, needs to plan accordingly
for continuity of funding.
9. Funding policy is too often directed
towards issues of international popularity without necessarily
giving thought to what the UK can best deliverplaying to
10. The UK science career structure is weak
and policy needs to be addressed; PhD studentships need to be
more attractive, to attract and retain the brightest and best;
the Postdoctoral research career structure also needs addressing.
11. Government needs to give higher priority
to issues of food security through programmes of development in
plant biotechnology and plant breeding.
Q3. 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
12. JIC welcomes the Government's efforts
to consult more widely in policy formulation and would welcome
the opportunity to contribute to a broader range of research issues.
13. Science is complex and costly. Hence decisions
on scientific funding should be informed directly through close
consultation with scientists. UK Government should be open to
international scientific opinion on proposed scientific policy.
14. Consultations with the science and engineering
community need to be better coordinated, giving time for considered
input. Improved efforts should be made to ensure that stakeholders
are contacted, with clarity on what information they would like.
15. Government should make clear how the
responses to their consultations have been used to inform policy
16. Ultimately the success of such consultations
will be shown by our ability to deliver societal and economic
improvements, but the long incubation times should be recognised.
Q4. The case for a regional science policy
(versus national science policy) and whether the Haldane principle
17. The Haldane principle should continue
to be embracedJIC believes that scientists (in the guise
of research councils) rather than politicians should lead in decisions
on priorities of research funding expenditure.
18. "Blue skies" research capabilities
should continue to be protectedbalancing curiosity-driven
research with economic impact drivers.
19. Fundamental research and maintaining
a world leading science base are major functions of the Research
Councils and this should be retained. In the UK Government Departments
fund science to inform policy development but unlike the US there
is little Departmental funding of science to help deliver policy
goals. For example US-DOE and US-DA fund targeted plant genome
research for priority food and energy species. This does not
happen in the UK and should, but not at the expense of the Research
20. Funding should be linked to excellence
as judged by peer review
21. In the area of agriculture, regional
and national have complementary aims and values. International
collaboration is at the heart of science and should be encouraged.
Agriculture is especially tailored to local climatic and soil
conditions. Hence, crop development will always need to have a
Q5. Engaging the public and increasing public
confidence in science and engineering policy
22. DIUS recently consulted on "A
Vision for Science and Society: a consultation on developing a
new strategy for the UK". JIC's communications professionals
responded to the consultation. JIC looks forward to seeing the
report from the consultation and hopes that this will lead to
a strategy in which DIUS leads the community and other Government
departments, and provides incentives for partners to work together.
23. JIC believes that bench-scientists are not
always the best communicators of the bigger issues. Excessive
reliance on research scientists to influence wider public thinking
is not necessarily a strong policy.
24. JIC does, however, have an active role
in engaging with public audiences on a variety of levels, both
local and national, and takes its responsibilities in delivering
accurate information extremely seriously.
Q6. 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
25. The widest engagement is positive but
this should be driven by a central vision of what the UK can best
deliver, based upon its strengths within publically-funded organisations.
Q7. How government science and engineering
policy should be scrutinized
26. All appropriate Parliamentary Select Committees
should continue their role of scrutiny of policy, an approach
which should be cross-cutting and encourage combined enquiries
(more than one committee involved) echoing our view expressed
in para. 6 above
27. Policy success will be measured by the well
recognised outputs of, international recognition, delivery to
society and industry, and economic growth over a long timescale.
130 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haldane_principle Back