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

Memorandum 86

Supplementary submission from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills


  The House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee has asked DIUS to provide a memorandum outlining progress made in implementing the recommendations of the former Science and Technology Committee's report Scientific Advice, Risk and Evidence Based Policy Making (HC900, Session 2005-06). This memorandum provides an update for the period since September 2007 (when the last update was provided).

The Government plans to publish a strategy for science in Government in the near future, which will set out in more detail its approach and plans, building on the approach set out in its reply to the S&T Committee's report.

The main areas of development since September 2007 are set out below.

Chief Scientific Advisers working together and with other analysts across Government

  The Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government (GCSA), Professor John Beddington, has established a "Core Issues Group" (CIG) of departmental CSAs (DCSAs) to address cross-cutting scientific issues such as climate change, food, water and energy; counter terrorism and infectious diseases. This group has formed sub-groups for specific tasks, for example to peer review the scientific content of the Gallagher report on biofuels.[244] It may shortly undertake work on the Severn Barrage. The GCSA has also worked closely with other analytical professions through the Heads of Analysis Group, for example to advise departmental Capability Review teams on analysis and use of evidence.

CIG meets regularly with Research Council Chief Executives, with whom it is developing a set of cross-cutting R&D priorities in preparation for the next Spending Review. CIG is also engaging with the Chief Executives of the leading Engineering Institutions to explore ways to improve the contribution that the engineering community can make to the government's response to major challenges such as climate change.

  The GCSA also continues to provide personal advice to Cabinet Committees, the Prime Minister and Ministers more widely, for example on food, energy and security.

  A Global Issues Team has been established within the Government Office for Science (GO-Science) to support the GCSA on policy issues where science and technology have an important role. These include climate change and energy, food security, nanotechnologies, bioscience, civil contingencies and counter terrorism.

Appointment of Chief Scientific Advisers

  All the main science-using departments except HMT have either appointed CSAs or plan to do so.

Advice and support to departments

GO-Science continues to review departments' management and use of science with a view to improvement and spreading best practice. Reviews of the Home Office/Ministry of Justice and the Department for Health have been completed and the Food Standards Agency Review will be published shortly. Advice has also been provided to DFID on its management of science.

The Science Reviews are being replaced by a new "lighter touch" programme of "Science and Engineering Assurance Exercises" to provide faster and more focused oversight of Departmental management and use of science and engineering.

Foresight and Horizon Scanning

  Foresight projects on Obesities, Mental Capital and Wellbeing and Sustainable Energy Management and the Built Environment have been completed. The Obesities project informed the Government strategy published in January 2008 (Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives: a cross-government strategy for England), and the other projects are also being followed up by relevant departments. In the wake of the Foresight report Infectious Diseases: preparing for the future, John Denham announced a major government investment in the development of diagnostic technologies on 7 October 2008.

The Horizon Scanning Centre has worked with departments across a wide range of issues, for example on International Futures scenarios (for DFID, MOD, BERR, FCO and HMT), on UK Futures 2030 to inform DIUS's own strategy, and to help update the National Security Strategy. It has updated its horizon scans, and plans soon to publish a report on its engagement work on the wider implications of science and technology. It has helped establish a new Strategic Horizons Unit within the Cabinet Office, to address national security issues.

The Science and Engineering Profession in Government

  Working with departmental Heads of Science and Engineering professions (HoSEPs), the GCSA is developing a long-term strategy that will set out a vision for the Government Science and Engineering community focusing on building a cohesive community, supporting scientists and engineers within the Civil Service and championing the profession across Government. This includes arranging periodic conferences, co-ordinating and promoting the spreading of good practice, drafting and maintaining the requirements of Professional Skills for Government as they apply to Government scientists and engineers, and exploring issues of importance to the profession and departments, such as development, recruitment and retention. The first ever national annual conference for the science and engineering profession in Government took place in January 2009; speakers included the Science and Innovation Minister, the Head of the Home Civil Service and the GCSA. Membership of the science and engineering community now stands at over 1600 civil servants from more than 30 government departments and agencies. During that conference the GCSA launched Government Science and Engineering (GSE) to promote the professional interests of scientists and engineers in government.

The Council for Science and Technology

The CST has provided further advice to the Prime Minister and Government orally and in writing. Its most recent major report addressed the relationship between academia and policy makers. John Denham will be leading the Government's response to that report.

The Cabinet Committee on Science and Innovation

The Cabinet Committee on Science and Innovation, ED(SI), is addressing the management and use of science by Government amongst other things, and the chair (Lord Drayson) will report quarterly to the Prime Minister. The GCSA advises at its meetings.


  Other areas where progress has been made include:

    —  The revised Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees (CoPSAC) was published in December 2007, based on public consultation, consultation with SACs and the S&T Committee's views. The Code has been well received by the SAC communities. SACs are also engaged with GO-Science in a programme of workshops to: build Secretariat networks; tailor the CoPSAC principles to address particular interests of Committee participants, chairs, and secretariats; train and induct Chairs with planned guidance to be issued later this year. Professor Beddington will host a networking reception for SAC Chairs, Secretariats, CSAs and officials on 24 February. The first annual monitoring of SACs reported to CSAC in December 2008; Professor Beddington will shortly write a note to the IUSS Committee summarising the findings.

    —  Induction material for CSAs and their officials has been revised and reissued.

    —  Guidance is being developed on risk communication for civil servants, addressing both policy makers in general and scientists and engineers in particular.

    —  The revised Government Code of Practice on Consultations[245] was published in July 2008.

    —  A revised UK strategy for science and society is being developed in the light of consultation in 2008.

    —  The Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre for Public Dialogue in Science and Technology has been launched. It has supported dialogue in areas such as drugs, hybrid and chimera embryos and stem cell research.

  Further detail of the Government's approach and progress will be set out in the forthcoming science in Government strategy.

February 2009

244   The Gallagher Review of the indirect effects of biofuels production, Renewable Fuels Agency, July 2008. Back

245   http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file47158.pdf Back

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