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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 78 - 79)



  Q78  Chairman: We welcome our second panel this morning. We welcome very much indeed Dr Tim Bradshaw from the CBI, Professor Dame Janet Finch, Co-chair of the Council for Science and Technology, Judy Britton, Deputy Director of Science in Government, GO-Science and Baroness Onora O'Neill, President of the British Academy. If I could start with Dr Bradshaw—this is a question that was put to the last panel—do you feel that the Government is an intelligent customer of scientific and engineering advice? If not, what should it do to improve the situation?

  Dr Bradshaw: Thank you very much for inviting me to come here today. I think broadly speaking yes, they are an intelligent customer. However I would like to put a caveat on that in that science is more than just the sort of physical and biological natural sciences; we would like to see a little bit more advice coming in on the social science side. Previous witnesses mentioned some of the big challenges facing the country—things like climate change—and our view is that part of the solution to that is technological but another part of that is the behaviour change aspects which will need significant amounts of social science type research and investments to actually make sure they take place. That is exactly what business is doing; they are investing in not just the technology and the R&D that you see reported, but also in the human factors, social science aspects of it too so the technologies they bring to market will actually find traction and make a difference in changed behaviour. I think if there is one thing the Government can do a little bit more of is perhaps building up on that social science side as well as the purer science and engineering side of advice.

  Q79  Chairman: In terms of this agenda of choosing areas of advantage—if we do not call it picking winners—you feel that the Government has sufficient scientific and engineering expertise in order to be able to become an intelligent customer, in order to put tax payers' money into particular areas.

  Dr Bradshaw: I think if it draws on the expertise in the bodies it funds—like the Royal Society, the research councils, the Technology Strategy Board—and comes and talks to business and others as well then yes, there are enough pathways of advice to help the Government. It is a case of whether it has the vision and ambition to actually use those effectively. We will see; it is getting there perhaps.

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