Equity of funding
29. The second argument raised throughout the submissions was
for a fairer distribution of existing funds. The disparity of
funding between the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering
was one area of concern. The British Computer Society said "We
believe that the Royal Academy of Engineering gives very good
value for money, supporting a comparable level of activity to
the Royal Society. Thus, the disparity in funding between the
two bodies does not seem justifiable". It wanted to see the
level of funding for the Royal Academy of Engineering raised substantially.
When we asked Sir Alec Broers, President of the Royal Academy
of Engineering, why he thought the Academy received less money
than the Royal Society, he replied "we are relatively young,
we are quite ambitious".
The relative age of institutions does not seem a sensible basis
for determining their funding. Funding should reflect the work
30. A few societies expressed a desire to see government funding
distributed more widely, rather than going only to the Royal Society
and the Royal Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Food Science
and Technology thought that -
"the funding currently directed to the Royal Society could
be more widely dispersed to other learned and professional and
scientific societies in order to ensure a wider spread of advice
to government and public".
The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management
"Many of the bodies that do not receive government funding
could easily make a case for doing so. The fact that there is
no obvious mechanism for accessing available funds is unfair.
It discriminates against those learned societies with an excellent
track record of achievement in favour of an elite few who are
effectively 'subsidised' by the taxpayer and who do not necessarily
represent the views or activities of other bodies".
The Royal Geographical Society told us that "it would greatly
welcome a more equitable distribution of government funds to learned
31. It is unrealistic to expect the Government to fund all the
hundreds of scientific learned societies, and some would not want
it. There would need to be some mechanism through which the societies
could bid for government funds for core funding as well as project
grants. There is no practical way that the Government itself could
determine which bodies to fund. Societies would need to be pro-active,
and provide clear financial plans for their use of government
funding. Dr Rita Gardner, Chief Executive of the Royal Geographical
Society, told us -
"all of the learned societies and bodies act to a strategic
plan, act to implementation objectives on an annual basis and
those would need to be monitored against delivery".
Government should provide a central fund to which learned societies
could bid, but they would need to be prepared to submit financial
plans and be aware that such funding would require demonstrable
outcomes and accountability.
32. The present funding of scientific learned societies appears
to be haphazard rather than the product of strategic thinking
on the part of the OST. The Government must consider how funding
could be distributed more effectively and rationally.