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