Letter from The Rt Hon Lord Drayson, Minister
for Science and Technology and Professor John Beddington, Government
Chief Scientific Adviser, to the Chairman of the Committee, 24
Scientific advice is valued by the Government
in every area. For this reason, and to ensure Government receives
the best possible advice, it is vital to promote an effective
relationship between Ministers and the independent experts that
advise them. With that in mind, in November 2009, the Government
committed to publish a set of Principles for engagement between
Government and its Independent Scientific Advisers. These were
published for consultation before Christmas and this consultation
closed on 9 February 2010.
We believe the finalised Principles, enclosed,
appropriately reflect the responses, received from the scientific
community and colleagues from across Government. We hope you will
agree that they set out a solid framework for future engagement
between Government and its Independent Scientific Advisers.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank
the Committee for its input throughout the process of drafting
Minister for Science and Innovation
Professor John Beddington
Government Chief Scientific Adviser
The Principles of Scientific Advice set out
the rules of engagement between Government and those who provide
independent scientific and engineering advice. They provide a
foundation on which independent scientific advisers and government
departments should base their operations and interactions.
The Principles apply to Ministers and Government
departments, all members of Scientific Advisory Committees and
Councils (the membership of which often includes statisticians,
social researchers and lay members) and other independent scientific
and engineering advice to Government. They do not apply to employed
advisers, departmental Chief Scientific Advisers or other civil
servants who provide scientific or analytical advice, as other
codes of professional conduct apply.
Government should respect and value the
academic freedom, professional status and expertise of its independent
Scientific advisers should respect the
democratic mandate of the Government to take decisions based on
a wide range of factors and recognise that science is only part
of the evidence that Government must consider in developing policy.
Government and its scientific advisers
should not act to undermine mutual trust.
Chairs of Scientific Advisory Committees
and Councils have a particular responsibility to maintain open
lines of communication with their sponsor department and its Ministers.
Scientific advisers should be free from
political interference with their work.
Scientific advisers are free to publish
and present their research.
Scientific advisers are free to communicate
publicly their advice to Government, subject to normal confidentiality
restrictions, including when it appears to be inconsistent with
Scientific advisers have the right
to engage with the media and public independently of the Government
and should seek independent media advice on substantive pieces
Scientific advisers should make clear
in what capacity they are communicating.
Scientific advice to Government should
be made publicly available unless there are over-riding reasons,
such as national security or the facilitation of a crime, for
not doing so.
Any requirement for independent advisers
to sign non-disclosure agreements, for example for reasons of
national security, should be publicly acknowledged and regularly
The timing of the publication of independent
scientific advice is a matter for the advisory body but should
be discussed with the Government beforehand.
Government should not prejudge the advice
of independent advisers, nor should it criticise advice or reject
it before its publication.
The timing of the Government's response
to scientific advice should demonstrably allow for proper consideration
of that advice.
Government should publicly explain the
reasons for policy decisions, particularly when the decision is
not consistent with scientific advice and in doing so, should
accurately represent the evidence.
If Government is minded not to accept
the advice of a Scientific Advisory Committee or Council the relevant
minister should normally meet with the Chair to discuss the issue
before a final decision is made, particularly on matters of significant
Scientific Advisory Committees, Councils and
government departments should consider the extent to which the
Principles in this document are reflected in their operation and
to make changes as necessary. Issues relating to the function
and working of scientific advisory bodies that are not reflected
in these high-level Principles are discussed in more detailed
guidance such as the Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory
Committees or the Guidelines on scientific analysis in
Government departments and their independent
scientific advisers should raise issues of concern over the application
of the Principles, or other guidance, with the relevant departmental
Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA). If the matter of concern cannot
be effectively resolved or is especially serious CSAs should approach
the Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) and Ministers should
approach the GCSA and the Minister for Science. The matter will
be examined against a clear set of criteria, which include a breach
of the Principles or CoPSAC.