Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Economic and Social Research Council
There are a number of points we wish to make
in addition to those in our June 2000 submission to the Committee's
1. The White Paper, Excellence and Opportunity,
is mainly concerned with putting scientific knowledge into use
through closer ties between the academic research community and
the business sector. It explores a range of issues, from science
education in schools to codes of practice for scientific committees,
and it considers the role of government in the process of research
and its exploitation. In its own terms, it may well have a positive
effect on science and innovation.
2. However, one of our main concerns is
that the social and economic sciences are almost completely absent
from the White Paper, either as providing knowledge about the
process of innovation, or as having a capacity for exploitationparticularly
in an increasingly knowledge-based society and economy.
3. There is a great deal of work in the
social sciences, much of it funded by the ESRC, covering business
processes, innovation, economic and organisational performance.
Many of the factors that promote or inhibit exploitation are behavioural,
social and cultural, and forward projection of the trends and
characteristics of the population in all areas of human activity
form a key ingredient to business potential.
4. While the social sciences do not have
such an obvious and commercially exploitable potential as the
physical (or technical) sciences, they nevertheless are increasingly
used in commercial processessuch as the design process
for information and communication systems, and in the public service
sector in the development and implementation of policies.
5. We noted in our previous submission to
the Committee that the involvement of users of research in research
council activity promoted by the Realising Our Potential White
Paper had largely been achieved. However, we argued that this
may have contributed to the diminishing public confidence in science
and its exploitation, since it did not include the public from
debates and decisions, and overtly addressed vested interests
(mainly business) which may not be seen to be in keeping with
those of the public.
6. The White Paper, Excellence and Opportunity,
notes this problem, but does not address it adequately. The proposed
Codes of Practice for Science Committees, for instance, fall well
short of involving or serving the public community and its interests.
7. We remain less sanguine on the consistency
between the Research Assessment Exercise 2001 and research utilisation
than the White Paper.
8. Overall, therefore, we believe the Science
and Innovation White Paper, though positive in many respects,
unfortunately missed an opportunity through omitting social science
research either as informing the mechanisms of innovation or as
having potential for exploitation.