Memorandum submitted by the Office of
Science and Technology (OST)
1. The extent of OST's involvement in the
discussion concerning reform of Copus?
OST has been involved in regular discussions
with Copus over its role and workplans.
Lord Sainsbury has taken a personal interest
in the reform of Copus. He attended a Copus Council meeting in
November 1998, where he suggested that Copus might give further
thought to its future role and that it might be time for it to
take a more strategic role in the development of science communication.
The Minister and OST officials have also commented on Copus's
plans for reform both at Council meetings and directly to the
Copus chair, Council members and the Copus manager. (OST, is not
a member of Copus Council, but occasionally sends an observer
to its meetings by invitation.) Lord Sainsbury also attended a
Copus Council meeting in September 2001, where he offered his
views on Copus's work.
More recently, following the resignation of
Dame Bridget Ogilvie as Copus chair, OST has discussed the future
role of Copus with a range of key stakeholders.
2. What consideration OST has given to the
methods and routes by which Copus is funded, and whether these
are likely to change?
OST will be considering the most appropriate
funding routes for Copus in the light of the outcome of the discussions
on the future of Copus which are being led by Lord Jenkin.
3. What input OST has into the distribution
of the Royal Society's non-hypothecated grant-in-aid, in particular
the £810,000 spent on Science Communication?
The whole of the Parliamentary Grant in Aid
(PGA) from OST to the Royal Society is hypothecated, in the sense
that it is given for a group of clearly identified purposes; there
is no "unallocated head-room" and no portion of the
PGA which is given on, for example, similar terms to a HEFCE block
There are working level meetings, typically
half-yearly, between OST and the Royal Society, where the latter
reports on progress in relation to the objectives for which Grant
in Aid has been given.
The annual financial returns made by the Royal
Society to OST are required to indicate the actual out-turns against
the various activity headings in comparison with the original
At each spending review the Royal Society submits
a detailed spending plan for each line item. For example the line
item "Science Education and Promotion" (which in the
question is referred to as Science Communication) details the
allocation and spending plans for all the activities which comprise
this line item, which are, science education, the Society's own
PUS activities, Copus, the Royal Institution and the British Association
Once the spending plans have been agreed the
Society may not vary the spend between the three major blocks
without the approval of the OST. The Society may vary the spend
within those blocks but must inform OST before it does so.
The Society provides the OST with audited accounts
each year which report on the actual expenditure for each activity.
The Society will for the first time this year also provide OST
with a report on outputs and outcomes for each activity supported
through the Parliamentary grant.
4. What is the Department's view of the recent
developments at Copus and the best way forward?
OST shares the disappointment expressed by Dame
Bridget Ogilvie that she was unable to implement the vision for
the "new" Copus. OST welcomes the proposals that Lord
Jenkin has tabled for discussion on the future of Copus. We believe
that Copus needs independence, a constitution and clear decision-making
mechanisms. We see Copus's main role as providing advice to Government
and others on science communication mattersas opposed to
advice on specific issues of scienceboth proactively and
reactively. It should promote co-ordination and co-operation amongst
organisations and individuals active in public engagement with
science, engineering and technology issues.
It should identify gaps and overlaps and encourage
the appropriate players to address these. Copus should not undertake
activities that other bodies are better placed to do.