IUSS Select Committee Publish Critical Report on Science in Government

The Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee has this morning published the report of its inquiry into ‘Putting Science at the Heart of Government’. The report concludes that the Government has reduced science to a political bargaining chip, with responsibility for the Government Office for Science shuffled between three Departments in two years, and that a broad vision is mising for science policy.

The Committee directly appeals to the Prime Minister to bring the Government Office for Science (GO-Science) into the Cabinet Office so that science can play a stronger role in informing decision making. The Committee also urge Government to establish a press office in GO-Science, which would also serve all Science Advisory Committee.

The report also says:

• If the Government is to return to ‘picking winners’ it must have clear priorities and come clean about which areas of research will get less money

• The 2009 Budget Research Council savings are in reality an attempt to influence research funding streams and the Government should not label them as something they are not

• The Haldane Principle should be replaced with a principle which accommodates a much wider range of factors, for example regional science policy

• After the general election, a new free-standing Science, Engineering and Technology Committee should be created with a cross-departmental remit

Phil Willis MP, the Chairman of the Committee, said:

“My Committee does not underestimate how important the Government believes the role of science and engineering advice to be. We were impressed by evidence demonstrating that significant progress is being made, such as the increasing use of Chief Scientific Advisers.

“We ask that a tangible and ambitious strategy for UK science and engineering policy is developed. The Government has committed to placing science and engineering advice at the heart of policy formulation and now it is time to do so: scrutiny of policy must be strengthened and a clearer vision for the future must be developed.”