Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-84)
PROFESSOR DAVID KING AND DR JOHN M TAYLOR
WEDNESDAY 15 MAY 2002
80. Could you send that?
(Dr Taylor) I should be glad to.
81. Multidisciplinarity. One of the things I am particularly interested in is the potential contribution what we might call discursive subjects might make to making science more attractive, whether you are talking about people writing essays about the impact of various sciences and technologies on society, talking about the ethical status of scientific judgement and whether you are talking about the history of science. We are currently looking very carefully at whether that may well have a role in making science a great deal more attractive by putting people into the historical circumstances. I was going to ask you, in connection with all of that, what progress has been made with the review of the Arts and Humanities Research Board where obviously a lot of those subjects come from and have potentially a lot to contribute to the debate. Is that research board to be granted Research Council status? If so would it be funded by the OST or would you need some great new structure in order to accommodate it? Presumably you would wish to accommodate those areas if you could.
(Dr Taylor) Presumably you are familiar with the state of the formal investigations. There is a report currently with the Department for Education and Skills to come to Ministerial decisions about what is going to happen here. The Foundation for Science and Technology recently hosted an open meeting in London where I and two or three other people were invited to speak about this issue. We had a very positive debate. The climate is that they want to become a Research Council, they understand what that means and they are comfortable with that. The Research Council community would be keen to have them join, so long as they brought their money with them. That is very clear and understood.
82. They do not have much.
(Dr Taylor) They are not as badly off as you might think. We recently issued an invitation from RCUK for the Chief Executive of AHRB to join us round the table as an observer until such time as ministerial decisions emerge about what is going to happen. The debate we had was a very open and positive one. David Eastwood is now sitting with us. We had RCUK meeting today which he attended.
83. So David feels positive as well. I am very pleased to hear that. Do you feel positive about that as well?
(Dr Taylor) Absolutely; I feel very positive. I think that the boundaries between different areas of research need to be worked away at. If we take arts and humanities, there are many areas of important overlap with the sciences, engineering and technology. You only have to think of architecture, engineering, design. It can only be advantageous to have a single funding organisation, in other words to move AHRB from its position in DfES into the OST. We might need to think about changing the name of the OST.
Chairman: That was my very next question. I was going to ask you what it would be.
84. Office of Innovation.
(Professor King) Office of Research, perhaps.
Chairman: John Taylor, David King, thank you very, very much indeed for coming and sharing with us your thoughts on the activities which you are undertaking on behalf of British science. We are very pleased that you have come before the Comprehensive Spending Review because we have great hopes for that too. Thank you very much for all that you are doing. We shall give you a break for a few weeks and see you again probably. I hope that we share our endeavours and secrets and ideas. Thank you very much for offering to give us the documentation. We shall be in touch. David King, John Taylor, thank you very much.