Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Wellcome Trust

  The Trust is pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the Committee's current inquiry. The focus of our response will be concerned with the funding and role of the Royal Society, with whom the Trust has most contact.

  The Trust is an independent, biomedical research-funding charity, established under the will of Sir Henry Wellcome and funded from a private endowment, which is managed with long-term stability and growth in mind. Its mission is to foster and promote research with the aim of improving human and animal health. One way the Trust seeks to meet its mission is by stimulating an informed dialogue to raise awareness and understanding of biomedical science, its achievements, applications and implications, through both science education and public engagement activities.

  As members of the Committee will be aware following their recent visit to the Royal Society, the Grant-in-Aid budget of c£26 million per year provided to the Royal Society by the Government is used to support a range of activities. The budget not only supports Fellowships but also other personal awards, funding for research grants, maintenance of relationships with similar learned bodies overseas, communication and education programmes and the provision of independent and timely scientific advice to the Government on key issues of relevance to science, society, scientific education and the climate for scientific research.

  The prestigious nature of the Royal Society's personal awards is able to attract international, world-class scientists to work in the UK and consequently such awards add significant value to the UK science base.

  The Royal Society is an organisation with a world-wide reputation for its activities and the Trust considers that its work in communication and education, in particular the Science in Society events, makes a valuable contribution to the UK's activities in this area.

  In addition, the Royal Society contributes independent, authoritative and timely science advice on a wide range of issues affecting science and society in the UK, as well as contributing to wider debates on such issues where they have a European or international impact. The Trust itself provides some small support for the Society's activities in this area through its sponsorship of a Wellcome Trust Fellow in the Society's Science Advice Section.

  The Trust believes that the independent, expert advice of learned societies such as the Royal Society, in addition to the contribution of charities and industry, helps to improve public-policy making on scientific issues.

  Therefore, the Trust feels that the provision of Grant-in-Aid by the Government to the Royal Society is entirely appropriate, in order for the Society to continue to provide such a valuable contribution, both to the scientific research base of the UK and to the continuing dialogue surrounding science and scientific issues. Financial support for the work of the Royal Society should therefore remain a key responsibility of the Government.

  Members of the Committee should note that, whilst my Fellowship of the Royal Society may be considered a conflict of interest, the points made above reflect the views and opinions of colleagues across all divisions of the Trust.

Dr T Michael Dexter FRS


March 2002

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