Examination of Witness (Questions 900-906)|
8 JULY 2008
Q900 Alun Michael: So part of the
question might be, "How serious are you in those aspirations?"
Professor Diamond: Yes.
Q901 Alun Michael: On that point
I wonder if you would comment on the papers that we have had submitted
to us by Sir John Cadogan, who I believe was Director General
of the Research Councils UK, who has been
Professor Diamond: Sir John was
in the 1990s.
Q902 Alun Michael: Some time ago,
yes; but he has made comments that have been quite scathing about
the rejection by the Welsh Assembly Government of the suggestion
that there should be a Chief Scientific Adviser to the Assembly.
Would not that sort of post be necessary to enable the Assembly
to engage in the sort of wider dialogue that you have just referred
to as being the sensible follow-on from a policy statement?
Professor Diamond: I take a very
strongI stresspersonal view that there is a great
advantage to there being a Chief Scientific Adviser. I think Scotland
has shown that. There is a Chief Social Researcher in Wales and
I think she is excellent, and I think she also provides an excellent
link between the policy imperatives in social research in Wales
and the Research Councils and we have very, very good relationships
and extremely good links with her.
Q903 Chairman: Could I end with the
question which was triggered by Alun Michael's questions, but
also in your differentiation between a response mode and a directive
mode? This idea that Research Councils could be more interventionalist
in creating greater collaboration, it occurred to me that in Mr
Michael's own constituency perhaps one of the great research institutions
of the 20th century, the Pneumoconiosis Research Unit funded by
the Medical Research Council at Llandough Hospital was a case
in point where you had people like Professor Archie Cochrane pioneering
epidemiology and Julian Tudor Hart pioneering community medicine,
Dr Vernon Timbrell pioneering dust diseases. That unit there was
a world centre for 20 years but a wrong decision was taken in
the 1950s not to integrate it into higher education and to collaborate
more fully with the university. It came into being by accident
with a Health Minister, Aneurin Bevan, a very proactive union,
the Miners Union, and a desire to do something about a very serious
problem in pneumoconiosis. Could we not see a situation where
a real science policy of the Welsh Assembly Government could be
real if you actually had a much closer and interventionist collaboration
between the Research Councils and the Welsh Assembly Government,
and to have actually, as Sir John Cadogan proposes, a Science
Minister, albeit the First Minister is the Science Minister. We
have a Culture Minister but we do not have a Science Minister.
Professor Diamond: I could not
speak to the need for a Science Minister. Having said that, I
think that there is a real benefit for serious conversations between
the Research Councils' and the Welsh Assembly Governmentand
that is precisely what we have with the Chief Social Researcher
from my own councilabout the critical issues for Wales.
You mentioned Julian Tudor Hart, who is still, even at the age
he is now, providing advice to some of the ways in which we are
taking forward the electronic patient records agenda, which although
it is a UK agenda Wales is leading much of the rest of the UK
on, and on which I think there are real benefits for the UK to
have. I am absolutely clear in my mind that we need to have the
kinds of strategic discussions that you are talking about and
we need to make sure that they are integrated into policy within
the Welsh Assembly Government.
Q904 Chairman: The reason we have
this inquiry is because this matter has not devolved and what
we are trying to address is this need for a synergy between a
Welsh Assembly Government which is not responsible for research,
which has aspirations in the science arena, and the non-devolving
areas of research such as yourselves.
Professor Diamond: The real commitment
that I have given youand I hope I have given you some examples
of the way that has happened over the last two to three yearsis
that the kind of discussions that are needed we are willing to
have and indeed are having and there are a number of opportunities
that have come up as a result of those strategic decisions, either
with the government or with HEFCW or with WORD, which have enabled
there to be strategic investments in Wales in areas which are
important to Wales, and we need to make sure that there are no
barriers to those happening in the future. That is why in answer
to one of the earlier questions I said that I would expect the
proportions to go up because we have made some significant investments
in recent months that the funding has not really started to flow
Q905 Chairman: I began this session
by asking a question about posing the question of the difference
between Scotland and Wales. Could I request that you provide a
memorandum which gives us a route map or an explanation of the
qualitative difference between the way in which Scotland responds
to you and Wales responds to you? How does actually the Scottish
Executive and the HEFCW equivalent in Scotland relate to you and
its respective bodies; and how do the Welsh bodies relate? Is
there a significance difference?
Professor Diamond: You have asked
for a subsequent memorandum and I will give you that.
Had you asked me just to respond I would have responded that I
suspect there is no significant difference; that there is a real
commitment for us to engage at exactly the same level. I can speak
for ESRC, of course, and for ESRC we have very, very good relationships
with the Scottish Government; we have very, very good relationships
with the Welsh Assembly Government and I would find it very difficult
to expect that a very close examination of our processes would
see any great difference whatsoever.
Q906 Chairman: It would be helpful if
you could map it out.
Professor Diamond: I will map
it out and make sure that you have a very clear document on which
to base your deliberations.
Chairman: Thank you very much for your
evidence this morning and this afternoon.
4 Ev 179-180 Back