Systematics and Taxonomy Follow-up: Government Response - Science and Technology Committee Contents


At a meeting on Thursday 20 November, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee considered the Government response to its recent report on systematics and taxonomy. The Committee has asked me to thank you for the response and also for your role in its co-ordination.

Whilst there were some aspects of the Government response which the Committee welcomed (for example, the provision of a financial contribution towards the costs of assimilating the CABI fungal reference collection at RBG, Kew), there were others about which the Committee has asked me to write to you for further explanation:

The Committee was disappointed by the Government's refusal to accept the recommendation (7.26) that the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills should take responsibility as lead Government department for systematic biology. In para 6.18 of the Committee's report, the Committee gives evidence-based reasons for its recommendation. Although, as you say, it may not be uncommon for different aspects of a scientific field to be spread across departments, the Committee had taken the view that in this particular instance there were reasons why this diffuse approach was not working in the best interests of the health of the discipline. The Committee would welcome a more detailed consideration of its reasoning in para 6.18 and, further, given your reference to "effective coordination among departments" in your answer to recommendation 7.26, an account of the mechanisms by which this coordination is achieved and monitored.

With regard to the paragraph in the introduction to the Government response listing the departments and bodies on behalf of which DIUS was acting, the Committee would welcome an explanation as to why the Scottish Government was not also consulted given the importance of RBG, Edinburgh as one of the leading taxonomic institutions in the United Kingdom.

The Committee would welcome information about the governance of science within DIUS more generally.

The Committee was disappointed that, despite the evidence set out in paras 5.4 and 5.5 of the report, NERC was unwilling to accept the points raised concerning mixed signals and the willingness of NERC to fund classical taxonomy (recommendation 7.19).

The Committee looks forward to your reply to this letter early in the new year.

15 December 2008

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