Memorandum submitted by the Clerk of the
Committee from Professor Geoff Simon, Chair, British Society of
Animal Science Technical and Ethical Committee
1. The annual Forward Look report is welcome.
2. While Technology Foresight may help Parliamentarians
understand the direction of scientific research, we are not confident
that it has done much to facilitate industrial-academic interaction,
or been of particular benefit to the life science community.
3. The Council for Science and Technology
(within the Office of Science and Technology) has not been as
visibly active as its precursor ACOST. However, the role remains
an important one.
4. The academia-industry interface still
needs to be developed. That the DTI lost much of its R&D budget
since the last White Paper has not helped. That other Civil Departments
(especially MAFF) have had their R&D budgets decline, again
has not helped. That the cuts in military/defence R&D have
not been transferred to either civil science (be it Departmental
R&D or the Science Base) has been a lost opportunity.
5. Schemes such as the Teaching Company
Directorate have been successful and welcome.
6. The new Research Council mission statements
with their explicit commitment to wealth creation and the quality
of life may be threatening blue skies research. The big breakthroughs
do not necessarily have an immediate commercial application. The
merger of the AFRC with the SERC has not preserved whole-organism
agricultural research. We now need such research in order to realise
the whole-organism applications of the past decade's molecular
7. The creation of a co-ordinating post
of DG of the Research Councils has been beneficial.
8. The theme of wealth creation and quality
of life is most applicable to technology and engineering (including
bio-engineering), but it should not be allowed to constrain pure
research which is where most of the big breakthroughs originate.
9. The future:
(a) the UK has to position itself to reap
the most from the post-genome challenges;
(b) to do this we need to ensure that science
attracts and retains the very best. Short term contracts and career
structures need to be addressed urgently. Administrative bureaucracy
is still stifling;
(c) the decline in science funding, having
been halted, must return to its mid-1980 real term levels.
5 June 2000