APPENDIX 3: CALL FOR EVIDENCE |
Cuts in overall public spending due to the current
economic climate will lead to some difficult decisions about how
to allocate public funds for science and technology research.
Effective mechanisms for allocating funds are vital if the UK's
science base is to remain healthy both now and in the future and
is to continue to contribute to meeting societal needs.
The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee,
chaired by Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, is undertaking an inquiry
into the setting of research funding priorities within Government
and other bodies responsible for the allocation of public funds
for science and technology researchthat is, all aspects
of science and technology, including, for example, the medical
and engineering sciences.
The Committee intends to focus on:
- how decisions are made to fund research to meet
- the balance of funding for targeted
versus unsolicited response-mode, curiosity-driven research;
- how research is commissioned in Government departments
The inquiry will cover the research councils, Higher
Education Funding Councils (HEFCs) and Government departmental
research and development. It will not cover funding for European
Union research activities.
The Committee invites evidence on the questions below.
- What is the overall objective of publicly-funded
science and technology research?
- How are public funds for science and technology
research allocated? Who is involved at each level and what principles
apply? Where appropriate, is the Haldane Principle
- Are existing objectives and mechanisms for the
allocation of public funds for research appropriate? If not, what
changes are necessary?
- What governs the allocation of funding for Government
policy-directed research through Government departmental and agency
initiatives? Are existing mechanisms appropriate? What is the
role of Departmental Chief Scientific Advisers?
- How are science and technology research priorities
co-ordinated across Government, and between Government and the
relevant funding organisations? Who is responsible for ensuring
that research gaps to meet policy needs are filled?
- Is the balance of Government funding for targeted
versus response-mode research appropriate? What mechanisms are
required to ensure that an appropriate and flexible balance is
achieved? Should the funding of science and technology research
be protected within the Research Councils or Government departments?
How will the current economic climate change the way that funds
are allocated in the future?
- How is publicly-funded science and technology
research aligned and co-ordinated with non-publicly funded research
(for example, industrial and charitable research collaborations)?
How can industry be encouraged to participate in research efforts
seeking to answer societal needs?
- To what extent should publicly-funded science
and technology research be focused on areas of potential economic
importance? How should these areas be identified?
- How does the UK's science and technology research
funding strategy and spend compare with that in other countries
and what lessons can be learned? In this regard, how does England
compare with the devolved administrations?
28 "Targeted research" refers to research
directed towards a specific strategic outcome and includes, for
example, Government departmental research and the research councils'
'themed' research programmes. Back
The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), for example,
uses the following definition of responsive-mode research: "the
funding stream that supports excellent research in response to
unsolicited ideas from research groups, consortia or individuals,
in any area relevant to NERC's remit. NERC promotes unrestricted
and innovative thinking; proposed research can be pure, applied
or policy-driven, and must seek to address-or provide the means
to address-clearly defined science questions." Back
After the First World War, Lord Haldane undertook a review of
the function of Government. The 'Haldane Principle' stems from
a distinction made in that review between 'research work of general
use' and 'research work supervised by administrative departments',
advising that the former should be undertaken independently of
administrative supervision as 'science ignores departmental as
well as geographical boundaries'. The 'Haldane Principle' has
evolved over time, and there is currently no accepted definition
of the principle. Back