Memorandum submitted by the British Psychological
1. As the learned society for psychology,
The British Psychological Society, under its Royal Charter, promotes
the advancement and diffusion of knowledge of psychology pure
and applied. As well as setting and maintaining high professional
standards for psychologists, the Society exists to bring the insights
gained from psychologists' research and practice into the public
realm for the benefit of all.
2. The Society welcomes this opportunity
to contribute to the inquiry into the government funding of the
scientific learned societies and applauds the interest of the
committee in the quality of scientific advice available to government
which this inquiry demonstrates.
3. The Society believes that government
policy should be based on the best available scientific evidence.
We recognise the importance of contributing to the policy making
process and devote considerable resources to making psychological
expertise available in Whitehall and Westminster.
4. All parts of government should welcome
to contribution of science to evidence-based policy making. The
existing support for learned societies and other learned bodies
should be regarded as a base from which the contribution of science
to political and public life must be developed.
5. Among the Society's 34,000 plus members
is a wealth of expertise on issues of concern to many different
government departments. There is a particularly strong history
of input to science, health and education policy. In the past
two years, the Society has responded to 20 UK government consultations,
27 consultations by other bodies and provided members for departmental
working or consultative groups. In addition, the Society publishes
research which informs policy making, meets with Ministers and
works closely with POST on individual research projects. The estimated
cost of this work, to the Society, which is not financially supported
by government, is in excess of £15,000.
6. However there are many parts of government
that do not make full use of the scientific advice which psychologists
could offer. Transport, criminal justice, work and pensions, trade
and industry, defence, food and rural affairs and housing policy
would all benefit from research which has been conducted by psychologists.
That policies are being made in these areas without recourse to
the best evidence available is disappointing.
7. The Society intends to promote the contribution
of psychologists to policy making across departments. It is our
belief that a co-ordinated approach by our members to government
would add value to the work of individual psychologists and government
departments as well as the science base and government as a whole.
8. Relations between the scientific and
research communities and government should not be confined to
the policy silos within which these interactions have traditionally
occurred. The Society hopes that broadening the range of psychologist/government
interactions will make a positive contribution to the efforts
of the OST and the Chief Scientific Advisor in raising the profile
of science across Whitehall.
9. The Society endorses the view of the
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (expressed in her evidence
to the committee on 19 December 2001) that those who understand
the importance of the science base must make the case for government
spending on science and believes that this responsibility will
endure beyond the current spending review.
10. In the interest of broadening the base
from which advice to government is drawn, the Society would welcome
some financial support for input to one-off inquiries being made
available to organisations that do not receive grant-in-aid from
11. Within the last five years the time
allowed for responses to government consultations has shortened
considerably. Whereas before there might have been three months
plus, the time scale now may be as short as a few weeks. Our members'
responses are produced on an entirely voluntary basis; attempting
to persuade them to drop existing work commitments at short notice
to draft a response to government is becoming increasingly hard.
Government should recognise that those with the greatest expertise
are likely to have the busiest schedules and plan its consultation