The work of the UK research councils - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the Economic and Social Research Council (RCUK 05)


  Thank you for your recent letter requesting information following the Science and Technology Committee's review of our Annual Report and Accounts for 2008-09. Please see below answers to the questions in your letter.

1.   What problems have Programme Assurance Visits identified in 2008-09 and 2009-10?

BBSRC lead on the Programme Assurance visits for the Research Councils and will answer this question on behalf of all Councils.

2.   What were the costs of running the Administrative Data Liaison Service (ADLS) and New Secure Data Service (SDS) in 2009 (page 13)?

The Administrative Data Liaison Service (ADLS) is a three year pilot funded from 1 October 2008 to 30 September 2011. Technological advances in recent years have enabled the formation of large administrative databases held by central and local government. The ADLS will create a pioneering single "point of contact" service to the academic community and government departments which will signpost users to relevant administrative data and support them to access it. The ADLS will also work closely alongside government departments in extending the potential of administrative data and promoting its use to researchers. The total budget for the service is £515,174 over three years. In the 2008-09 year in which the award began, £77,383 of the total budget invested.

The Secure Data Service (SDS) is a two year pilot funded from 1 October 2008 to 30 September 2010. This service will provide controlled access to sensitive and/or disclosive personal or organisational information which cannot be released for research purposes under End User Licence or Special Licence conditions. The establishment of the SDS will help to ensure that the full research potential of these resources is exploited. It will permit researchers to carry out detailed work to link data and/or to create new analytical variables or to undertake analytical procedures which require access to detailed identifying information. The total budget for the service is £308,865 over two years. In the 2008-09 year in which the award began, £82,602 of the total budget invested. The ESRC received confirmation in July 2009 that the Large Facilities Capital Fund bid for additional funding of £1.1 million to enable the accelerated expansion of the SDS had been successful.

3.   Why did the overall spending on knowledge transfer (page 109) decrease between 2007-08 and 2008-09?

  The ESRC has almost doubled its knowledge transfer expenditure over the last three years from £2.3 million in 2006-07 to £4.0 million in 2007-08, and £3.9 million in 2008-09. We have ambitions to further increase our investment in knowledge transfer in order to maximise the impact of social science research, even within a tough financial climate. The slight decrease in expenditure in 2008-09 compared to 2007-08 reflects changes to accounting procedures and internal allocation decisions and maintains the greatly increased level of knowledge transfer spend achieved in the previous year.

4.   What is the Council's view of the quality of services received from the Shared Services Centre?

The Shared Services Centre Ltd (SSC Ltd) began to deliver services for Human Resources, Payroll, Information Systems Support and Procurement functions to the ESRC in the spring of 2009 following a successful transition process. SSC Ltd has provided a professional and consistent level of service to ESRC across these functions during the post-transition stabilising period. Performance is reviewed on a monthly basis by both ESRC and SSC Ltd against an agreed set of key performance indicators as per the Service Level Agreement to monitor the effective implementation of services.

Finance functions transferred to the SSC Ltd this week, and grants functionality will transfer in the summer of 2010.

5.   The Committee requests a note setting out the level of End Year Flexibility the Council could call upon at the start of the year 2008-09, the amount drawn down during the year and the balance carried forward at the end of the year

The table below sets out the amounts of End Year Flexibility available to and drawn down by the ESRC in 2008-09:
ESRCTotal DEL £m
Revised EYF 1 April 2008£3.315
2008-09 adjusted published allocations £166.124
2008-09 provisional outturn£167.195
2008-09 under/(over)spend-£1.071
EYF 1 April 2009£2.244

6.   What proportion of invoices in September was paid within 10 days?

The proportion of invoices paid within 10 days in September 2009 was 60%. The proportion of September 2009 invoices paid within 30 days was 85%.

Please do contact me if you would like any additional information to complete your review.

Professor Ian Diamond FBA FRSE AcSS

Chief Executive

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