Systematics and Taxonomy
Follow-up: Government Response|
The Committee's commentary on the Government
1. In August 2008, the Committee published its
report Systematics and Taxonomy: Follow-up,
following two previous inquiries in 1992 and 2002.
The Government response to our follow-up report, which we received
in early November 2008, is published in Appendix 1 to this report.
2. There are elements of the Government response
which we welcomefor example: the decision to provide a
financial contribution in 2008-09 towards the costs of assimilating
the CAB International fungal reference collection at the Royal
Botanic Gardens, Kew (recommendation 7.21); the commissioning
by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) of a study
to ascertain the current number of taxonomists in the UK (recommendation
7.4); the agreement to develop a roadmap for delivery of Internet-based
taxonomy, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
Research Council and NERC (recommendation 7.12); and the commitment
of NERC, with the Natural History Museum, to continue to facilitate
dialogue between those with interests in taxonomic issues (recommendation
3. The Government response, however, also gave
us cause for concern. As a result, in December 2008, we wrote
to Mr Ian Pearson MP, Minister of State for Science and Innovation
at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS),
and requested the following:
- Further reasons for the Government's refusal
to accept the recommendation that DIUS should be the lead department
for systematic biology.
- An explanation as to why the Scottish Government
had not been consulted by DIUS when drawing up its original response.
- More information about the governance of
science within DIUS generally.
- Further reaction to the Committee's criticism
of NERC that it had given out mixed signals about the whether
it was prepared to fund classical taxonomy.
4. In February 2009, the Government responded
to our request for further information. Our letter and the Government's
reply are printed in Appendices 2 and 3 to this report.
5. We have considered the Government's reply.
We are pleased that NERC has recognised that its approach to funding
systematics and taxonomy appeared to be unclear and that efforts
have been made to remedy this (recommendation 7.19). We are disappointed
that the Government continues to be unconvinced of the case for
DIUS being designated the lead Government department for systematic
biology (recommendation 7.26), and we remain confused as to why
the Government did not consult the Scottish Government at the
outset of its consideration of our report, instead of seeking
the views of the Scottish Government only in response, it seems,
to our letter to Mr Pearson in December 2008. We will continue
to keep these matters and other matters arising from our report
1 5th Report (2007-08) (HL Paper 162). Back
First Report (1991-92) Systematic Biology Research (HL
Paper 22) and 3rd Report (2001-02) What on Earth? The Threat
to the Science Underpinning Conservation (HL Paper 118). Back