Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Institute of Biology


  Grants should be allocated across all professional bodies providing technical information to Government on a rolling three-year term to ensure that support staff are put in place to provide the relevant information effectively.

  Government should provide support on a regular basis to fully fund conferences on important scientific issues, subcontracting the organisation of the conference to the principal professional body.

  Government should ensure that the quality of work undertaken in the bioscience area is of the highest quality. It should do that by:

    (1)  ensuring that all senior government bioscience posts are held by qualified persons who would be expected to have chartered status

    (2)  ensuring that it is "best practice" in government bioscience posts that staff follow a "Continuing Professional Development" (CPD) programme

    (3)  industry should be encouraged to employ qualified chartered bioscientists in key positions. This commitment should be strengthened by ensuring that subcontracts externally tendered also involve chartered bioscientists in responsible positions.

    (4)  promoting to universities, higher education establishments, and schools the need for professionally qualified employees who undertake CPD programmes of the like already established by the Chartered Institutes. It should discourage splinter CPD programmes that tend to confuse the already fragmented bioscience profession.

  Government should emphasise the need for a unified bioscience profession and support that by providing funds to achieve the unification.

  In all professions, promote a quality "kitemark" of "Chartered Status" to the public. This in turn would help to encourage people to join Chartered Bodies and so promote the regulation of a standard of work across a wide spectrum of the UK with little cost to the Exchequer.

  Government should pay for the costs of Institutions belonging to world wide bodies such as IUBS (International Union of Biological Sciences) and ECBA (European Countries Biologists Association) so that the UK has greater influence on the worldwide stage

  A scheme to support information to and from the EU should be established with Government resources.


  A.  The Institute of Biology receives no recurrent funding from Government of any kind. We have received modest (but welcome) occasional support for workshops.

  B.  Although the total funding for IoB may seem modest, a huge amount of our output is provided by (unpaid) volunteers. The public, the media and Government all benefit from this to an incalculable extent.

  C.  We advise Government through:

    (1)  Responses to Select Committees:

    —  we have produced more than 100 Responses during the past four years. They cover topics ranging widely and covering areas such as the need for a National Park around Loch Lomond, GM Crop Separation, and Antibiotic Resistance. Hence they inform many different Government Departments (Health, MAFF, DEFRA, DfES, DTLR, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, etc).

    —  Our expenditure on this is in excess of £80k per annum. A modest amount of support (less than £20k) is received from our Affiliated Societies for this. The ultimate beneficiary is UK plc. The principal immediate beneficiary is the Government, its Departments and Agencies as well as Parliament.

    (2)  Briefing papers:

    —  Although we have produced fewer of these (eg Biological Weapons), a number of these have been published in Journals directed at Parliamentarians (eg Science in Parliament, Science and Public Affairs).

    —  We also produce Discussion Papers such as that on Long Term Environmental Research.

    (3)  Workshops to which Members of both Houses of Parliament are invited. Recently these have included:

    —  Diagnosis and Remote Sensing, The Biology of Air Pollution, BioFuels, and Anti Infectives.

    (4)  Affiliated Societies Fora where Government and their advisers regularly meet directly the Biological community. We have hosted Lord May, Dr Michael Clarke, Lord Sainsbury and the Chief Executives of relevant Research Councils.

  D.  We communicate science to the public through:

    (1)  Branch meetings—many of which are open to the public. Several run in collaboration with BAAS, IoP, RSC, etc

    (2)  Schools events, lectures, competitions, of which the BBO (British Biology Olympiad) is biggest. We sponsor speakers at events during National Science Week and at schools and universities throughout the year.

    (3)  Informing the public through Biology teachers. The Journal of Biological Education reaches more than 30 per cent of all relevant schools in the UK.

  E.  We represent UK overseas through membership of the European Countries Biologists Association (ECBA) and the International Union of Biological Scientists (IUBS). We are responsible for selecting, training and escorting the UK team to the International Biology Olympiad.

  We spend nearly £20k per annum on this, but note that the Royal Society received direct Government funding to enable it to undertake such representation on behalf of the United Kingdom.

  10 per cent of our membership live overseas and cover a total of 96 different countries. In many (particularly less developed) countries, IoB is the only representative biological organisation.

  F.  We would wish to do more:

    (1)  Produce proactive briefing papers eg Biological Weapons, Antibiotic Resistance, Climate Change, Vaccination, and Food Supplementation.

    We suggest that Government Departments and Agencies invite organisations such as IoB to tender for such activities.

    (2)  More events for schools and local populations.

    Once again, we would be happy to carry this out under contract and regard it as an area that is sadly deficient at present.

    (3)  More workshops on topical, policy driven topics such as energy sustainability, food and farming, stem cell research, the impact of climate change, conservation of biodiversity, GM crops and food in order to engage the public in discussion.

    (4)  More public events to stimulate informed debate on controversial issues such as embryo research, intensive farming, and complementary medicine. These would often be run in collaboration with other cognate organisations such as the BAAS, RSC, IoP, RI, with all of whom we have a close working relationship.

    We are only one of the few independent voices left and also one of the few bodies endowed with a Royal Charter. We are therefore in a unique position to facilitate and implement such public involvement.

  G.  We are co-ordinating the biological community through our Affiliated Societies and through the development of a Federation of Life Sciences.

  This enables the Government to access the Biological Community as easily as it can access Chemistry and Physics.

  We have invested large amounts of our funds on this during the past four years.

  We note the provision of funds to enable the Royal Academy of Engineering to carry out such work. We suggest that we should be allowed to bid for similar support to catalyse the development of such a focus for Biology.

  H.  We do not believe that it would be appropriate for Government to provide core funding for organisations such as IoB. It would undermine our independence and hence actually diminish our usefulness. However, Government does contract for advice and currently does this outwith the professional and learned bodies. They should become a central focus for providing such information.

April 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 6 August 2002