Setting priorities for publicly funded research - Science and Technology Committee Contents

CHAPTER 5: Recommendations

United Kingdom research base and the economic context

66.  We recommend that the Government should make a clear and unambiguous statement setting out

  • their current research funding commitments; and
  • the periods of time over which those commitments will apply (paragraph 18). (Recommendation 1)

Overview of Government expenditure on research and development

67.  We recommend that the Government Chief Scientific Adviser should

  • publish annually figures on all public spending to support research, including aggregated figures for categories the definitions of which have been agreed among Government departments and with relevant organisations; and
  • make appropriate recommendations to the Prime Minister (paragraph 29). (Recommendation 2)

We further recommend that the Government Office for Science should have the appropriate resources to support that task (paragraph 29). (Recommendation 3)

Advice and consultation

68.  We recommend that, as part of his oversight role, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser should be present at meetings with the Treasury at which departmental budgets are considered (paragraph 34). (Recommendation 4)

69.  We further recommend that all departmental Chief Scientific Advisers should provide Ministers with timely information in advance of departmental budget negotiations. (paragraph 35). (Recommendation 5)

Improving mechanisms for responding to major cross-cutting policy challenges

70.  We recommend that the Government should establish appropriate mechanisms for:

  • identifying major cross-cutting policy challenges; and
  • funding and co-ordinating appropriate responses to such policy challenges (paragraph 40). (Recommendation 6)

71.  We further recommend that:

  • separate budgets should be made available for research programmes to respond to major cross-cutting policy challenges;
  • each research programme to respond to such policy challenges should have one, readily identifiable, budget-holder who would be ultimately responsible for delivering the programme; and
  • management and delivery of research programmes to respond to such policy challenges should feature prominently in budget-holders' performance appraisals (paragraph 40). (Recommendation 7)

Strengthening the role of independent external expert advice

Consultation and transparency

72.  We welcome the Government's commitment to improving transparency and the process of allocating the science and research budget by consulting the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the British Academy, the Council for Science and Technology, the Chief Scientific Advisers Committee and the Confederation of British Industry before the next comprehensive spending review (paragraph 42).

Departmental commissioning of research

73.  We recommend that the departmental CSA should be consulted as an integral part of the department's commissioning process, in particular in helping to identify the nature of the advice sought and the relevant expertise (paragraph 46). (Recommendation 8)

Council for Science and Technology

74.  We recommend that the Government commission an independent, external review of the role, responsibilities, objectives and reporting arrangements of the CST and the use made of its advice (paragraph 48). (Recommendation 9)

"Responsive-mode" and "targeted" research

75.  We urge research councils, in determining the appropriate balance between the different types of research, to give due consideration to the role and importance of responsive-mode research in meeting the broader objectives of research (paragraph 54). (Recommendation 10)


76.  We propose that, when the relevant funding organisation considers "impact" to be a material factor in funding research, it should make an explicit statement of the nature and quantifiability of the expected impact of the research in question (paragraph 64). (Recommendation 11)

77.  We understand the wish of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to take account of the wider impact of research, but are yet to be convinced that a practicable and fair way of doing so has been found. We therefore recommend that, in HEFCE's proposed new retrospective assessment, the weighting given to impact should be significantly less than the 25 per cent proposed (paragraph 65). (Recommendation 12)

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