14. Realising Our Potential announced that
a clear and up-to-date statement of the Government's strategy
for science and technology would be published each year as 'Forward
Look' to inform the industrial and academic research communities.
Forward Look replaced the Government's 'Annual Review of Government
Funded Research and Development', which had provided a comprehensive
account of publicly funded research and development, explaining
the purposes for which different Departments funded their programmes,
and indicating current expenditure plans. Forward Look was to
have a broader scope than the Annual Review in outlining:
- the portfolio of public funded work best suited
to the broader scientific and technological needs of the UK; and
- the extent to which current individual departmental
science and technology programmes are matched to that portfolio.
15. Forward Look was published, along with a statistical
supplement, in 1994, 1995 and 1996. In 1997 and 1998 the statistical
tables were published alone. In 1999 Forward Look was published
again followed two months later by the statistical tables 'SET
statistics'. In 2000, the statistics were again published alone.
In our Report into Government Expenditure on Research and Development,
published in April 2000, we recommended that Forward Look should
resume annual publication.
In its response the Government outlined that it intended to produce
new Forward Looks on a cycle consistent with the timing of future
It is next to be published in the Summer of 2001. In our follow
up Report we urged the Government to re-instate annual publication.
In response to that Report, the Government argued that it made
sense to publish Forward Look in the year following a Spending
Review (to date, every two years), in order that it could set
out departmental spending plans over the period of the Review;
and that there would be little justification in publishing a full
Forward Look in the intervening years if there was nothing new
We do not accept this argument. While Forward Look in the intervening
years might not have new spending plans to present, it is - as
we have said before - "an effective management tool to ensure
progress monitoring against objectives and a means of communicating
the Government's plans and progress to a wider audience".
The evidence we have received in the inquiry confirms that Forward
Look is widely felt to be useful.
Once again we recommend that Forward Look be published annually,
and that it be published together with the statistical supplement.
It is widely used by the science, engineering and technology community.
16. In our Report on Government Expenditure on R&D,
published in April 2000, we recommended that the Forward Look
match SET and R&D expenditure figures more specifically to
policy objectives and the achievements of departmental science
In its response, the Government stated that from 2001 it would
introduce departmental science and innovation strategies and these
would develop improved measures of SET output performance, linked
to policy objectives.
(These are expected to be published in the Summer of 2001.) It
is not clear to what extent these will be included in Forward
Look. Evidence received in this inquiry suggests that Forward
Look should show more clearly how the research priorities contribute
to an overall strategy for science and technology.
We recommend that the next issue of Forward Look provide a
clear statement of Government's overall strategy for science and
technology and show explicitly how expenditure figures match policy
objectives. We look forward to publication of the departmental
strategies and trust that these will contain meaningful measures
of Departments' science, engineering and technology performance.