Examination of Witnesses (Questions 138
MONDAY 16 MARCH 2009
Q138 Chairman: Could I welcome our
Panel of very distinguished witnesses this afternoon, welcome
to you all. It is our first meeting with you, Professor Smith,
so we are delighted you are here. We hope you are enjoying your
role and you will enjoy this afternoon even more. If I could start
with you, Professor Smith, the government is conducting a major
debate at the moment to consider the strategic focusing of what
it calls targeted research programmes. First could you tell us
what you understand by targeted research programmes, and do you
actually support the government's move in this direction?
Professor Smith: Can I take you
into the slightly wider context? When I came into this job there
was some kind of legacy of dissatisfaction with the way that consultation
processes took place in looking at priorities, in particular in
the build-up to Spending Review, so one of the first things I
did with the support of ministers was to say we should have a
more public, as it were, consultation process, and I have listed
a number of bodiesthe Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering,
et cetera. That originally was thought of in the context of a
lead-up to a Spending Review, but we do not have a timetable for
a Spending Review and we do not quite know when and how that process
will take place, but I think what we were trying to do there culturally
was to up-the-ante on a consultation and debate about priorities
of every shape and form. So I think what Lord Drayson has been
doing coheres entirely with that kind of strategy of seeking to
be much more consultative and get views from a wide variety of
sources on priorities.
Q139 Chairman: So it was all planned?
Professor Smith: Compatible with
the planned process that I set in motion when I took up the job.