|29/06/04 Joined up Government
SBS today criticised the continued lack of joined-up thinking on science policy within the Government. In an article in Innovation Policy Review, SBS points out that while the Department of Trade & Industry is trying to get universities to generate more spin-out companies, this acivitiy is being stifled by the Inland Revenue's insistence on squeezing tax revenue out of them before they have even taken off.
The article points out several other mismatches between different Departments. For example, while the Treasury, on behalf of the whole Government, said in 2002 that all departments that fund science should have a chief scientific adviser, the Department for International Development (which commissions £150 million worth of science a year) still says it doesn't know whether it is going to bother.
SBS today warmly welcomed the Education Secretary's package of support for mathematics teaching in secondary schools, but expressed reservations about handing some responsibility to the Working Group on 14-19 Education.
"It's great that Charles Clarke is doing something serious about the problem of recruiting maths teachers, and the failures of the exam system, but we're worried about asking this Working Party to be responsible for some of this stuff," said Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS. "The working party has a record of vagueness and lack of serious detail, and we don't want these important reforms getting bogged down in that kind of woolly thinking".
23/06/04 Investment in science
22/06/04 Science in Parliament
Over the past two days, SBS has hosted an important symposium to discuss recruiting and retaining the best researchers in the UK's universities. Attended by representatives of the Government, the universities, industry and the charity sector, the event gave an opportunity for all parties to have a full and frank debate about the level of remuneration needed to ensure that the British university system can continue to be competitive in the world.
"The event was a huge success," said Prof Richard Joyner, Chairman of SBS, "and we managed to identify strong areas of common agreement." A full report of the event's discussion will appear shortly. Some of the participants at SBS's symposium on attracting the best researchers into UK science.
09/06/04 The state of Government science policy
SBS today delivered a verdict on overall Government science policy: Some progress but could do better. In a presentation to the Royal Society of Chemistry, SBS pointed out that although the funding of science has increased in recent years, there is a lack of coordination across Government Departments, which means that the UK is losing out in the global competition for talent and scientific ideas.
"One simple example is the funding of university science, where there has been substantial new capital money for buildings and equipment, and we are creating some really world-class facilities, but without the recurrent resources to attract and retain the best people, we are in danger of not getting the full value out of those laboratories," said Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS.
08/06/04 Teach First Challenge
SBS today attended the London Regional Final of the Teach First Challenge- a NESTA funded competition for Key Stage 3 science lesson ideas. “While Teach First has been a very successful scheme, and all the candidates gave enthusiastic presentations, it is difficult to see how events like this will have an impact on the problems in secondary school science. The scale of the problem of science in schools is much, much bigger”, said Rosemary Davies of SBS, who attended the event.
07/06/04 Research Assessment and funding
SBS today increased the pressure on the government to reform its methods of assessing and funding university research. Giving oral evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on science, Professor Richard Joyner, Chairman of SBS, argued that the Research Assessment Exercise needed a complete re-think, and that the system could only be made to work if the funding for science was adequate to the job.
Pressed by the Committee about why he did not appear to be "spitting blood," Richard Joyner pointed out that although the RAE arouses many passions in the science community, it is not, of itself, the principal problem. The poor pay and conditions of researchers, the unfair changes to the funding rules, and the increasing imbalance between directed funding and money to be used at local discretion were all at least as significant, he said.
02/06/04 The value of science
SBS today published a snapshot of what scientists are delivering with the money that taxpayers have invested in science in recent years. In a supplement to the SBS newsletter, SBS gives examples of success stories from universities, schools and other scientific institutions to show how public investment in science provides excellent value for money.
"The message is clear," said Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS, "Look at what science is delivering with current levels of funding, and just imagine what it could do in the future if the taxpayer continues to trust scientists with substantial investment."