Submission from the Campaign for Science
& Engineering (CaSE)
1. The Campaign for Science & Engineering
in the UK (CaSE) welcomes the opportunity to provide written evidence
to the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee
inquiry into putting science and engineering at the heart of
government policy. CaSE has been influencing UK science and
engineering policy since its inception in 1986 as Save British
2. CaSE believes that science and engineering
should be put at the heart of government policy through:
cross-government and departmental
focus on science and engineering
moving the Government Chief Scientific
Adviser and Government Office for Science to the Cabinet Office
significantly strengthening the Council
for Science and Technology
a cross-government science and engineering
greater transparency regarding the
guidance given from the government to research councils
continued pressure from the science
and engineering community
re-establishing the House of Commons
Science and Technology Committee
3. Without strong political support science
and engineering will never be at the heart of government policy.
For this reason CaSE works with all political parties across
the UK to ensure that they understand the importance of science
and engineering and the important roles that government and parliament
can play in its success.
4. There are two general types of government
science and engineering policies: those that influence science
and engineering and those that are influenced by science and engineering.
High-level political commitment is needed to develop both types.
The first requires farsighted investment in people and infrastructure.
The second is dependent on having the first in place and also
the advisory mechanisms and openness to integrate evidence into
5. Although this inquiry is mainly focused
on organisational issues and processes it is important to note
that the success or otherwise of putting science and engineering
at the heart of government policy is dependent on the personal
commitment of high-level individuals within government and other
6. The machinery of government is a critical
factor in ensuring that science and engineering are at the heart
of policymaking. The Prime Minister has made a number of significant
changes to the organisation of science and engineering policy
7. The appointment of Lord Drayson to the Cabinet
and the National Economic Council is a significant upgrading of
the position of minister for science and innovation. It is a
prerogative power of the prime minister to determine his or her
cabinet, but CaSE will advocate that future prime ministers make
science and engineering a Cabinet-level issue as we have done
in the past.
8. The creation of the science and innovation
cabinet sub-committee is a welcome development. It is critical
that the committee meets frequently enough to develop a cross-government
perspective on science and innovation. The composition of the
science committee should be expanded to include a minister from
the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office. As cabinet committee discussions are not
made public it is difficult to make an external assessment of
Departmental responsibility for science and engineering
9. Science and engineering will always need
to be a cross-government priority. One department can never be
wholly responsible for science and engineering. Each department
needs to be responsible for their own science and engineering
research needs and internal advice. Also, lines will always have
to be drawn between departmental portfolios with an impact on
science and engineering as varied as education, business, immigration
10. Although science and engineering policies
are spread across government it also needs to be a prominent part
of a single department. A Department for Science and Engineering
would have a number of obvious benefits. First, there would automatically
be someone at the Cabinet speaking for science and engineering.
It could also foster better integration of certain science and
engineering policies and regulations. An assessment would have
to be made about what functions from other departments would be
integrated into such a Department, one possibility would be the
Home Office's regulation of animal research. It would also be
necessary to guard against departments downgrading the importance
of science and engineering in their own portfolios, as the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office recently did.
11. The Department for Innovation, Universities
and Skills (DIUS) incorporates many of the elements that should
be within a Department for Science and Engineering. Science should
have been included within the name of the department to reflect
its prominence. One critical area that DIUS needs to strengthen
is its collaboration with other departments. Particularly, the
Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform on business
research and innovation and the Department for Children, Schools
and Families on science and mathematics education in schools.
Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Government
Office for Science
12. The Government Chief Scientific Adviser
(GCSA) has a critical role in putting science and engineering
at the heart of government. However, it would be appropriate
for the GCSA and the Government Office for Science (GO-Science)
to be moved from the DIUS to the Cabinet Office, because both
are meant to support the Prime Minister and Cabinet and strengthen
the Civil Service. It would also mean that all departments would
be engaged with equally as it is of critical importance that scientific,
engineering and technological advice is at the highest levels
of government and across it.
13. Government departmental funding of research
needs to be given a higher profile. The GCSA and GO-Science need
to keep challenging departments about how they are utilising science
and engineering to meet their departmental objectives. The Committee
of Chief Scientific Advisers should consider developing a cross-government
strategy on departmental funding on R&D.
Council for Science and Technology
14. The Council for Science and Technology
(CST) is an important body that has been under-utilised. Its
primary role is to advise the Prime Minister and leaders of the
devolved administrations on science and technology policy. The
CST has an extremely important role in challenging government
and devolved administration science policies and providing advice
on high-level issues. It is also well placed to look at the linkages
between UK-wide and devolved science policies.
15. The CST needs to be strengthened in order
to have a greater impact on science and engineering policy. One
organisational model that could be learned from is the Sustainable
Development Commission, which is the government and devolved administrations
independent adviser and watchdog on sustainable development.
A revamped CST could produce authoritative policy reports, statistical
analysis and comment upon progress across against government and
devolved administrations commitments. Council members would need
to give more of their time and the secretariat would need to be
strengthened, including offices in the devolved administrations.
A revamped CST would help to ensure that science and engineering
is put at the heart of government policy and that the government
delivers upon its ambitions.
16. There are various science and engineering
policies across the UK government, devolved administrations and
agencies. It is critical that there are appropriate strategies,
policy initiatives and funding to deliver the political ambition
to make the UK a world leader in science and innovation.
17. DIUS has the lead responsibility, but other
departments also make significant contributions to science and
engineering policy. HM Treasury plays a critical role in the
UK's science and engineering policy. It was central to the development
of the Ten-Year Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-14,
which remains the most important science policy document in the
UK. The outcomes of Comprehensive Spending Reviews and Budgets
are critical to achieving the goals set out in the Framework.
18. The UK has many science and engineering
policies. In addition to the Ten-Year Framework there are a number
of other key science policies. Although Innovation Nation
was billed as a science and innovation white paper, its focus
was mainly on innovation. The Sainsbury Review is another part
of the UK's science policy framework. A Science and Society Strategy
is also under-development. The Government should develop a cross-government
science white paper in due course to put science and engineering
at the heart of government policy. This could also be one way
of responding to the proposals that will inevitability develop
from this inquiry.
19. In addition, other departments should
pay more attention to how their policies affect the Government's
ambition for science and engineering. One recent example was highlighted
in CaSE's policy report International Excellence: Valuing International
Scientists and Engineers. The report found that the Home
Office's Points-Based System for immigration was not fully in-line
with making the UK a world leader in science and innovation as
it had negative impacts on the UK's ability to attract scientific
talent from around the world.
20. It is critical that UK-wide science
policy decisions, especially the funding distributed by research
councils, are made on the basis of merit. There are relevant
reasons for taking geographic distribution of research council
facilities into account when there is scientific justification
(eg, the long-term monitoring of environmental change).
21. The UK does have devolved science policies.
The Scottish Government published its strategy Science for
Scotland in November 2008 and the Welsh Assembly Government
published its Science Policy for Wales in 2006. Northern
Ireland does not yet have a science strategy. It is important
for devolved administrations to have science policies as they
have responsibility over key areas of research funding, education
22. As the Committee noted in its inquiry
into the Science Budget Allocations the Haldane principle needs
to be refreshed if it is to be a meaningful part of UK science
policy. As there is currently no agreed definition of the Haldane
principle there is much scope for interpretation about what it
means and how it should be applied.
23. The Haldane report made the distinction between
research funding for general use, that should be free from political
direction, and research for specific policy use, that should be
administered by a department. The growth of the science budget
at the same time as most departmental budgets have stagnated,
has meant that the government has looked towards research councils
and universities to deliver more of their evidence needs. Departments
should recognise the need for investment in policy-oriented research
as part of their responsibility and legitimate call upon their
24. The Secretary of State, John Denham,
gave his definition of the Haldane principle as:
Researchers are best-placed to determine
Government's role is to set over-arching
Research Councils are the "guardians
of the independence of science"
25. This definition is a good starting point
for discussion. However, it cannot be the final word as there
is a large grey area of decisions that are between a detailed
priority and an over-arching strategy, which makes the definition
virtually meaningless. What needs to be clarified is the level
of autonomy that the research councils have in setting their strategic
26. Because of the lack of transparency
in the science budget allocation process it is difficult to determine
if a decision was made by a research council or the government.
A useful step would be for the government to publish any guidance
it gives to research councils. CaSE has lodged a Freedom of Information
request to make the Allocation Letters from DIUS to each research
council public. This was done to find out what level of formal
guidance was given to research councils regarding how they should
allocate their funds and to ensure that subsequent guidance was
made a matter of public record. This would better enable the
science and engineering community and parliamentarians to scrutinize
the allocation of science budgets. DIUS is still considering the
27. The scientific and engineering community,
including universities, industry, research charities and learned
societies, should be central to the formulation of government
policy. They should be engaged in the formulation of both policies
that affect science and engineering and policies where science
and engineering evidence and advice should be brought to bear
on their development.
28. CaSE plays an important role in terms of
science and engineering policy. Our membership brings together
individuals and organisations from across the broad science and
engineering community. Our work focuses on influencing high-level
science and engineering policies across the UK. We do this by
producing policy documents, organising discussion meetings and
engaging politicians, civil servants and the media on key science
and engineering policies.
29. CaSE has a unique history. We were
founded in 1986 as Save British Science (SBS) by scientists,
engineering and mathematicians to secure greater political support
and funding for research and education. SBS/CaSE has contributed
to raising the political profile of science and engineering and
shaping the science policy agenda, such as the recent sustained
increase in the science budget, expansion of Chief Scientifics
Advisers, and highlighting deficiencies in science and mathematics
education. Outside pressure is critical to keeping science and
engineering up the political agenda.
30. Since SBS/CaSE's formation there are
more stakeholders with an active interest in science and engineering
policy. The government should take a more active and imaginative
approach to bringing together the science and engineering community
to discuss and agree shared priorities. The CST could develop
as a useful facilitator in making this happen.
31. CaSE believes that a Science and Technology
Committee should be re-established in the House of Commons. Parliamentary
scrutiny benefited from having a Science and Technology Committee
that was able to look at both the department with responsibility
for the science budget, related organisations and science and
technology issues within other departments and across them.
32. The addition of "science" to the
Innovation, Universities and Skills Committee was a welcome development.
The IUSS Committee to-date has covered a number of important
science and technology issues. The Committee's coverage of science
and technology has benefited by its membership being made up of
many members of the former Science and Technology Committee.
33. The IUSS Committee's remit is to scrutinize
the work of DIUS. Although the Committee could use its powers
to investigate the Government Office of Science to examine science
and engineering issues in other departments its workload has greatly
increased making it harder to cover science and engineering policy
across government. The Science and Technology Committee was often
very effective in investing those sort of issues (eg, research
within the Department for International Development).
34. The IUSS Committee should follow the
recommendation within the Science and Technology Committee's Last
Report to have a periodic Science Question Time to ensure that
the work of the Science and Innovation Minister is properly scrutinized.
This is particularly important when the Minister is appointed
from the Lords.