Supplementary written evidence from Professor
George Efstathiou, Director, Kavli Institute for Cosmology, Cambridge
Dear Mr Miller
I have just listened to your session today and thought
that you might like to see the letter that I sent Adrian Smith
concerning the composition of STFC Council. The appendix lists
the composition of several other research councils as of July
2010. I think you can see that there is a large difference in
the composition of STFC compared to the other research councils.
STFC has only one research academic in particle physics (James
Sterling) and only one research academic in astronomy (Martin
I cannot see how Adrian Smith can say that the composition
of STFC is similar to that of other research councils.
Professor of Astrophysics
Director Kavli Institute for Cosmology
16 March 2011
Letter from Professor George Efstathiou
FRS, Director, Kavli Institute for Cosmology, University of Cambridge
to Professor Adrian Smith FRS, Department for Business Innovation
Dear Professor Smith
Earlier this month a group of senior academics, including
myself, submitted a petition to Professor Michael Sterling signed
by nearly 1,000 scientists expressing a loss of confidence in
the CEO of STFC. In fact, there was widespread loss of confidence
in STFC in 2008. However, the academic community did not express
this in the form of a petition in the hope that the Wakeham Review
and the RCUK Structural Review of STFC would lead to changes that
might help to restore some confidence.
Our group has met with Professor Sterling twice and
we have had some constructive discussions. However, we have reached
an impasse on aspects of the governance of STFC, particularly
on the composition of STFC Council, which I believe is a critical
The composition of STFC Council is radically different
to the composition of the other Research Councils. The composition
of STFC Council was flagged as a major issue in the 2008 Science
and Technology Select Committee Report and by the Wakeham Review.
I quote from the Wakeham review:
"The Panel was immediately drawn to the different
governance structure that exists in STFC in comparison with other
Research Councils, notably a reduced Council membership of 10
individuals, four of whom are not university-based academics,
and a further three of whom are from the STFC executive. The Panel
was told by STFC that this different structure was deliberately
selected to deal with the multiple purposes assigned to STFC.
The provision and maintenance of large scale facilities for science
in the UK and elsewhere, the provision of grant funding for three
sub-disciplines of physics and the planning, operation and development
of a (sic) Science and Innovation campuses at Daresbury and Harwell.
Its small size was designed by DIUS to make it dynamic and to
facilitate regular meetings. However, when compared to other Research
Councils, which have Councils made up of approximately 11 to 17
members representing broad scientific interests from the community
operating at the highest level, STFC does stand out for the relative
lack of members of the scientific community at the highest level.
The structure has not best served the community in several branches
of science whose input is one level below Council. The Panel therefore
recommends that the DIUS should broaden the membership of STFC
Council to include more stakeholders in the science activity,
and that the balance between executive presence and non-executive
oversight should be redressed. It is argued that this adjustment
can be made without detracting from the executive activity in
developing the Science and Innovation Campuses.
The Panel recommends to DIUS that the membership
of STFC's Council be broadened to include more of the stakeholders
in the science activity at the highest level, and to redress the
balance between executive presence and non-executive oversight."
and the RCUK response to this recommendation (October
"DIUS accepts this recommendation. Details of
an open competition to recruit two additional scientists as non-executive
members of Council (the maximum permitted by STFC's Royal Charter)
will be published shortly."
And from the 2008 Grant/Hazell Organisational Review
"22. Governance issues within the Executive
seem to be further compounded by evidence of a lack of shared
understanding within the top team concerning the role of Council.
In our discussions with senior staff from the STFC Executive the
perceived role of Council was articulated to the Panel in terms
that ranged from the probity and oversight role of a 'board of
trustees' to the strategic leadership role of a 'board of directors'.
It is the Panel's view that the role of Council is closest to
"23. The Panel also considered the composition
of Council, noting that RCUK recently announced that DIUS intends
to recruit two additional scientific members to the Council, in
response to a recommendation by the RCUK Review of Physics chaired
by Professor Bill Wakeham. Notwithstanding this change, the Panel
notes that the Council of STFC differs from that of the other
Research Councils in having three members of the Executive on
Council. The norm for the other Councils is that the Chief Executive
is the only member of Council from the Executive. It is the Panel's
view that the case for this distinction has not been convincingly
There is also clear evidence that the composition
of Council has created a negative perception outside of STFC that
the Executive has excessive influence within Council."
As a result of these recommendations, two members
of the Executive resigned from Council and three University based
academics (Professor Martin Barstow, Sir Peter Knight and Professor
James Stirling) were appointed to Council in April 2009.
However, following Professor Sterling's appointment
as Chair of STFC, three new members of Council were appointed
from the business community. These appointments have again skewed
STFC Council so that it looks highly anomalous compared to other
Research Councils (see the annex attached to this letter). Most
of the other Research Councils are dominated by "heavyweight"
research scientists with strong international reputations. In
my conversations with Michael Sterling, he has seemed to be under
the mistaken impression that most other Research Councils are
dominated by "lay" members, and is particularly concerned
that academics in receipt of grants from STFC have a "conflict
of interest". I quote verbatim from an email exchange (15
"Thank you for setting down your views about
the membership of STFC Council. We have discussed it a number
of times in detail but I regret that I do not share your view.
The need for scientific understanding is not limited to active
researchers who are funded by the Council, who have an inevitable
conflict of interest. The challenge for recruiting future Council
members is to persuade those who have that knowledge but are not
in receipt of our funding, to accept the challenge that Council
membership entails in these difficult times. Your suggestions
would be welcome but as you know the process is controlled by
I accept that STFC Council needs a range of expertise,
but I do not accept this oversensitivity to potential conflicts
of interest of research scientists on Council. It does not seem
to be a significant concern for the other Research Councils. In
the case of MRC, they seem happy to have members from MRC Institutes
(for whom they presumably pay salaries) as members of Council.
Research scientists are regularly asked to sit on panels where
we must make cross-disciplinary decisions. In my experience top
scientists are highly capable of making objective decisions. This
is evidently expected from members of STFC Science Board.
Academic members of Council are necessary: (a) to
provide technical and scientific expertise; (b) to develop a coherent
scientific strategy for STFC; (c) to advise Council on the impact
of decisions on these subjects; (d) to retain the confidence of
the academic communities in these subjects (particularly in difficult
No other Research Council relegates its academic
heavyweights to lower level committees.
It is clear to me that the loss of confidence with
STFC Executive is in large part due to governance issues, including
the under-representation of senior scientists on Council. STFC
seemed to take a step in the right direction following the Wakeham
Review (with DIUS/BIS approval), but has now taken a step backwards.
I would therefore like answers to the following questions:
[A] The Organisational Review of STFC stated
clearly that a Research Council should provide "strategic
leadership". How can this be achieved if the best research
scientists are excluded from Council?
[B] The Wakeham Review explicitly called for
the inclusion of "more of the stakeholders in the science
activity at the highest level". DIUS accepted this recommendation
and appointed three University based academics to Council. Why
is BIS now ignoring the Wakeham Review and skewing Council towards
a lay membership?
[C] Why is the composition of STFC Council so
different to that of the other Research Councils?
[D] Do you agree with Professor Sterling that
University academics in receipt of STFC funds have a conflict
of interest and should not sit on Council? If so, why does this
restriction not apply to other Research Councils?
[E] If one follows strictly the logic that recipients
of STFC funds cannot serve on Council, then why does this not
also apply to people from STFC funded industry (eg Astrium, e2v,
[F] Are you confident, based on your recent experience,
that Council members with the scientific expertise to provide
"strategic leadership" can be found from the business
Finally, you will of course have seen the Royal Academy
of Engineering response to your Science and Research Budget review
request calling publically for a reduction of funding to fundamental
physics and particle physics in particular. Yet Mr Philip Greenish,
CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering is a member of STFC Council
and is surely aware of the savage reductions of 35% to science
exploitation funding in particle physics, astronomy and nuclear
physics since 2008. These reductions go well beyond the "slash
and burn" scenario envisaged by the Royal Society and leave
these subjects particularly vulnerable going in to a difficult
So my final question is:
[G] Do you believe that Mr Greenish's continued
membership of Council is credible, particularly given the loss
of confidence in STFC by the academic community?
19 July 2011
MEMBERSHIP OF RESEARCH COUNCILS
||Chairman WS Atkins|
|CEO||Prof. Alan Thorpe
||(Former Director NEC Centres for Atmospheric Sciences)
|Members||Prof Paul Curran
||Professor of Physical Geography, Bournemouth
|Prof Huw Davies||Professor of Physics, Institute for Atmospheric Climate Change ETH Zurich
|Mr Rowan Douglas||Managing Director Wills Analytics
|Prof Alastair Fitter
||Pro-VC for Research, Univ. York|
|Prof Anne Glover||Chief Scientific Advisor, Scotland
|Prof Charles Godfray
||Prof of Zoology, Univ. Oxford|
|Prof Alex Halliday||Prof of Geochemisty, Univ. Oxford
|Mr Peter Hazell||Chairman Argent Group etc.
|Prof Michael Lockwood
||Prof Space Plasma Physics, Energy and Environment, Univ. Southampton
|Prof Thomas Meagher||Prof Plant Biology, Univ. St Andrews
|Prof Julia Slingo||Met Office Chief Scientist
|Prof Andrew Watson||Prof Environmental Sciences, Univ. East Anglia
|Prof Rob Watson||Prof Environmental Sciences, Univ. East Anglia
|Prof Marjorie Wilson
||Prof of Igneous Petrogenesis, Univ. Leeds.
|13 University + 3 "Lay"
|Chairman||John Armitt||CEO Network Rail
|CEO||Prof David Delpy||Former Vice Provost Research UCL
|Prof Anne Anderson||Professor of Human ComputerInteraction, Univ. Dundee
|Members||Mike Carr||Former Chief Scientific Officer BT
|Prof Brian Collins||Chief Scientific Advisor SfT, Prof of Information Systems Cranfield
|Prof Lynn Gladden||Shell Professor, Univ. Cambridge
|Dr Andrew Herbert||Managing Director, Micros of Cambridge
|Prof Tim Pedley||Prof. Fluid Mechanics, Univ. Cambridge
|Dr Malcolm Roberts||Managing Director Guidance Ltd.
|Prof Roy Sambles||Prof of Experimental Physics, Exeter
|Prof Christopher Snowden
||Vice-Chancellor Univ. of Surrey|
|Prof Pierre-Louis Viollet
||Vice-President R&D Labs.|
|Prof Bill Wakeham||Vice Chancellor Univ. Southampton
|Dr Dave Watson||Director IBM Hursley Lab.
|Prof Mark Welland||Prof of Nanotechnology Cambridge and Chief Scientific Advisor MoD
|Prof Robert Winston||Prof of Science and Society Imperial
|Dr Tony Wood||Head of Medicinal Chemistry, Pfizer
|11 University + 6 "Lay"
|Chair||Sir John Chisholm
|CEO||Sir Leszek Borysiewicz
||Former Deputy Rector Imperial, Principal Faculty of Medicine
|Members||Prof Jeffrey Almond
||Vice-President Research and Development|
(Former Head of School of Animal and Microbial Science, University of Reading)
|Prof Michael Arthur||VC Univ. of Leeds (Former Dean of Faculty of Medicine, Southampton)
|Prof Dame Sally Davies
||DG Research Dept of Health|
|Prof Chris Day||Prof of Liver Medicine Univ. of Newcastle
|Dr Annette Doherty||Pfizer Global Research and Development
|Dr Richard Henderson
||MRC Lab of Molecular Biology|
|Prof Sir Andrew McMichael
||Prof of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford
|Prof Sally Macintyre
||Prof Faculty of Medicine Univ of Glasgow.|
Hon Director MRC Social and Public Health Unit, Glasgow
|Ms Vivienne Parry||Writer and broadcaster
|Lord Naren Patel||Former consultant obstetrician Ninewells Hospital Dundee, Former President Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
|Prof Michael Schneider
||Head of Cardiovascular Science, Imperial College
|Prof Herb Sewell||Prof of Immunology, University of Nottingham
|10 academics (including CE0) + 4 "Lay"
|Chair||Prof Mike Sterling
||Former VC Birmingham|
|CEO||Prof Keith Mason||Former Head MSSL
|Members||Mrs Gill Ball
||Former Finance Director, Birmingham|
|Prof Martin Barstow||Head of College of Science Engineering, Leicester
|Prof Keith Burnett||Vice Chancellor, Sheffield
|Mr Marshall Davies||Retired Director Boots
|Mr Philip Greenish||CEO Royal Academy of Engineering
|Dr Michael Healy||Director Navigation Business Division Astrium
|Dr Philip Kaziewicz||Managing Director GI Partners
|Prof Peter Knight||Senior Principal Imperial
|Prof James Sterling||Jacksonian Professor of Physics, Cambridge
|Mr Will Whitehorn||President Virgin Galactic
|6 University (including CEO& Chair) + 5 "Lay"