Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Institute of Association Management (IAM)

  (a)  The Institute of Association Management (IAM) is the leading independent professional body comprising chief executives and other senior personnel responsible for the management, development and governance of professional institutions, learned societies and other representative bodies. IAM's membership includes senior managers of organisations which are the subject of this inquiry. Many of these organisations play a significant role in the advancement of science and technology and therefore the economy of this country. Some are also affiliated to the Engineering Council UK and the Science Council.

  (b)  This Institute was founded in 1933. It is an unincorporated association and is funded through membership subscriptions and income from conferences, donations and training initiatives etc. IAM does not receive any form of government funding and is entirely self-financing.

  This Institute welcomes the Science and Technology Committee's inquiry into the funding of scientific learned societies. We hope that it will lead to a more transparent, rational and equitable approach to future funding as this has been a matter of concern to the Institute and its members for some time. We are pleased to offer this text as IAM's contribution to the Committee's inquiry and we would be pleased to give oral evidence if invited to do so.

  (a)  IAM urges government to continue funding independent learned societies. They perform an important role in society, regulate the professions they serve and are an authoritative source of objective advice to governments and the public. However, we also urge the government to spread available funds more equitably and to refrain from the "patronage" of a few.

  (b)  IAM urges government to review the funding criteria for learned societies and to create a new funding framework. Such framework to take account of:

    (i)  the extent to which a body is financially sustainable and self-supporting;

    (ii)  a body's policies in relation to inclusivity, equal opportunities, sustainable development and ethical behaviour.

  (c)  IAM takes the view that funding criteria should, generally, be based on principles of "additionality" with government funds supporting new work and not necessarily the core activities of a learned society.

  (d)  IAM believes that funding should be conditional and justified by a Strategic Plan. The Plan should include targets, performance indicators and a methodology that will enable government to assess performance against the Plan and the achievement of value for money.

  (e)  IAM urges government to consider a much broader range of learned societies for allocation of funds using a set of criteria which is fair, open and transparent embracing value for money tests.

  (f)  IAM urges the government to support and incentivise closer collaboration between learned societies that share a common role and remit.

  (a)  IAM's evidence on the funding of learned societies is based on the following key issues:

    (i)  confirmation of the role of learned societies.

    (ii)  the need for a framework for funding;

    (iii)  the case for widening access to government funds.

  (b)  For the purposes of this evidence this Institute's definition of "learned society" includes any independent learned society or professional body that applies knowledge and expertise necessary for the good and beneficial governance of membership organisations. We specifically exclude those bodies which hold political or commercial affiliations.

  (a)  Learned societies and professional bodies perform a unique role. The majority are independent of political and commercial interests and rely on the voluntary efforts of their members. They care about their profession and are committed to the common good. Therefore, these learned bodies play a critical role in providing independent expert advice to government, the public, fellow professionals and others; regulation of the profession and professionals they serve; education and training; professional development; research and much more besides. They provide a platform for objective debate on the critical scientific and technological issues of the day and the very best are forward-thinking, providing innovative solutions to pressing social needs. IAM suggests that if learned societies did not exist they would have to be created or, government itself would have to perform many of the functions they now provide.

  (b)  IAM is aware that successive governments have expressed a view that there are too many bodies serving similar professional interests leading to conflicting advice and duplication of effort. The need for closer collaboration of learned societies to create a single authoritative voice has, to some extent, been heeded and there is now a Science Council which acts as an over-arching body for science-based learned societies and professional bodies. Its creation is a welcome development.

  (c)  Although the IAM is not a federation of like-minded bodies it does bring together the chief executives of NGOs, societies, associations and institutions. Collectively, therefore, we represent senior personnel of bodies from all aspects of science, technology and industry. We hope that the government will recognise the value of our role and allow the Institute to contribute to the delivery of its social and other priorities as a result of this inquiry.

  (d)  Initiatives that lead to collaboration between learned societies, and those who manage their affairs, are to be applauded. They deserve government support since it is government that will be a key beneficiary. The process by which government is informed and advised, under such arrangements, will rationalise the consultation and advisory process. This Institute urges the government to consider incentivising any cluster of learned societies, that share common aims and objectives, in order to encourage them to co-ordinate their activities.

  (a)  IAM believes that government should continue to fund learned societies—many of them continue to make a tremendous contribution to the health, wealth, culture and standing of this country. They also make a significant contribution to the advancement and application of science and engineering for the public benefit. Much of this excellent work is undertaken by members of learned societies on a voluntary basis and IAM believes that so much more could be achieved if some of the available (or any additional) funding was directed to those bodies who currently do not benefit from government support. That only a select few learned societies receive government support represents an opportunity lost. IAM believes that there is an urgent need to review the current funding structure and to establish a new framework for funding based on merit, value for money and sound management principles. For example, funded bodies should demonstrate that they are inclusive and have policies in relation to equal opportunities. They should also show that they are committed to sustainability and operate within an acceptable code of ethics. Such bodies should be open, inclusive and committed to delivering outputs which serve their profession, inform the public and contribute to social priorities.

  (b)  Government funding should be conditional and relate to a prescribed programme of activities, targets and performance indicators which show how a funded body is contributing to innovation, excellence and a better public understanding of science and engineering. We also advocate that a learned society be required to submit to government a Strategic Plan justifying initial and continued funding. Such bodies should report, annually to government, on actual performance against the Plan.

  (c)  IAM understands that, in any new framework for the funding of learned societies, government may not wish to underwrite core activities and overheads. This Institute certainly believes that such bodies should be self-financing and that government funding should be provided on the "additionality" principle. That is, funding should support projects and initiatives that a learned society could not otherwise fund from its own resources but for which there is a demonstrable need. Government funding of these "value added" projects should, by definition, lead to innovation and better practice, have measurable outputs, be demand led, meet social priorities and offer better value for money than the current funding arrangements.

  (a)  Currently, only a small proportion of learned societies receive government funding. This seems to be based largely on historical practice and discounts the potential of many other learned societies to contribute to social and government priorities. Many of the bodies that do not receive government funding could easily make a case for doing so. The fact that there is no obvious mechanism for accessing available funds is unfair. It discriminates against those learned societies with an excellent track record of achievement in favour of an elite few who are effectively "subsidised" by the taxpayer and who do not necessarily represent the views or activities of other bodies.

  (b)  The current funding regime, under which the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering and certain other bodies receive significant amounts of government funds, is not only discriminatory but gives the impression that other learned societies are not worthy of support or recognition. This "smacks" of exclusivity and should be changed. It perpetuates a tradition which is no longer relevant in a modern, more accountable world where greater transparency is, or should be, the norm. The government funding and "patronage" that certain bodies now enjoy may have been appropriate one and two hundred years, or more, ago but a modern world with a different ethos and culture demands that the reasons for continuing with that approach are vigorously tested. Other learned bodies must be allowed to make their case. This is the basis of good public governance and should be regarded as part of the modernisation of government.

  (a)  IAM welcomes this inquiry. We urge the government to continue to fund learned societies but within the context of a new funding regime and framework. This Institute advocates a system which is modern, inclusive, transparent, encourages outputs that meet social priorities and recognises the potential contribution of all learned societies to the improved health, culture and economy of this country.

  (b)  In supporting a fairer and more transparent funding system for learned societies we advocate that such funds should not, without good reason, be used to underwrite a body's core activities or overhead costs. We firmly believe in the principle of "additionality" with funds being used for specific initiatives that are relevant to social and government objectives and that a body would not otherwise be able to undertake. All bids for government funding should be supported by a Strategic Plan showing measurable outputs.

   (c)  Finally, IAM urges government to encourage those learned societies, that share common aims and objectives, to work co-operatively in clusters or partnerships. It is in government's interest that learned societies come together and speak authoritatively with one voice and reduce the incidences of repetition and duplication of effort. The funding mechanism could be used to offer incentives for so doing.

May 2002

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