Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


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 change.

  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.

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