Memorandum submitted by the Institution
of Professionals, Managers and Specialists (IPMS)
1. The Institution of Professionals, Managers
and Specialists (IPMS) is a trade union representing 74,000 scientific,
technical and specialist staff in the Civil Service, research
councils, other public sector bodies and an increasing number
of private sector companies. IPMS submitted evidence to the Committee's
inquiry in May 1998 and, in March 1999, to the case study on genetically
modified foods. This brief submission supplements our earlier
evidence and is based on the experience and expertise of members
directly involved in providing advice on climate change. For example,
IPMS members are involved in the Terrestrial Initiative on Global
Environmental Research, the Land Ocean Interaction Study, and
the Environmental Change Network.
2. Across a broad area of expertise, IPMS
members see little reason to doubt the position of the Intergovernment
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on upward changes in temperature
and CO2 emissions. They emphasise that the overwhelming
majority of informed scientists consider that climate change is
substantially anthropogenic and that the internationally agreed
mitigation strategies are crucially important. Indeed, divisions
in this area tend to be somewhat artificial; with objectors drawn
mainly from petrochemical companies and certain economic think-tanks,
supplemented occasionally by maverick scientists from the USA.
Accordingly, the way forward lies in further refining existing
climate change models and developing mitigation strategies on
this basis, not in seeking alternative explanations for climate
3. For example, the Natural Environment
Research Council's Institute for Terrestrial Ecology (ITE) has
been involved for a number of years in providing advice to the
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR)
on the possible environmental consequences of climate change.
ITE has also reported on mitigation strategies involving the use
of short rotation and conventional forestry. An important recent
step forward is the development of global vegetation models which
interface with climate models, such as that developed by the Meteorological
Office's Hadley Centre, to predict the likely feedback between
climate and associated vegetation change. This work illustrates
the value of "joined up" government science and must
continue on a fully funded basis.
4. However, there are other areas of work
relating to climate change that are less well researched and resourced
by government. One such area relates to the impact of climate
change on farm or companion animals. There has been only one project
funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on
arthropod vector transmission of disease. The strong view of scientists
working in this area is that this is because the research agenda
has been defined to reflect the priorities of the parts of the
Central Science Group that are driving the climate change programme.
Some other work on impact on animals has been undertaken, but
only on the basis of securing EU funding, and the assessment of
our members is that at present this remains something of a "black
hole". Therefore, it would appear that although constructive
partnerships have developed in some areas, there is still more
that could be done to promote a cross-departmental strategic approach.
5. Gaps in communication are also illustrated
by the uncertainty of some members as to whether the results of
their research are actively considered by policy makers. It would
appear that although research findings are often published, for
example in scientific journals, it is not clear to staff in the
relevant research establishments whether the government is always
advised of the implications. This is of concern both to those
directly concerned and because it suggests a weak feedback loop
between researchers and policy makers. It is also relevant to
the conclusion of the Baker Report1 that more needs to be done
to promote knowledge transfer. Although John Baker was concerned
primarily with realising the economic potential of public sector
research establishments, it is clear that liaison between research
providers and departmental, rather than commercial, "customers"
does not always work as well as it should either. As IPMS has
consistently argued2, moving science away from the core of departmental
decision making exacerbates this weakness. The recent debate about
genetically modified organisms has again highlighted the need
for a critical mass of scientists in government, both to provide
specialist advice and in policy functions.
1. "Creating Knowledge, Creating Wealth"
by John Baker, Medeva Plc for HM Treasury and Office of Science
and Technology, September 1999.
2. Including, most recently, in our response
to the Baker Report, copies of which are available on request.
28 January 2000.