Memorandum submitted by the Environment
The Environment Agency welcomes the opportunity
of providing written evidence to the Science and Technology inquiry
into Government Funding of the Scientific Learned Societies.
We would like to emphasise the importance of
the independent role of these societies, particularly when scientific
advice and opinion is required by Parliament and Government. Their
independence and international standing is key when expert inquiries
are held, as illustrated recently by the Royal Society inquiry
on Infectious Diseases in Livestock. Funding should be both sufficient
and secure to ensure the structures remain truly independent;
with robust funding they can continue to act as an independent
source of scientific scrutiny of Government.
It would be inappropriate for the Royal Society
to focus unduly on applied science. We need a balance of scientific
inquiry, and blue skies research is equally important as applied.
An example has been work on extreme value theory, as presented
at a recent Royal Society meeting, which is "pure" science,
but also very relevant to managing flood risk. However, it should
be recognised that the science elite represented in the Royal
Society are not always as well integrated as they might be into
the industrial cutting edge at which science is being applied
We recognise the value of the Royal Society
Fellowships as an alternative source of funding for our brightest
young scientists, and would wish to see a good proportion of these
allocated in research areas relevant to environmental protection.
Historically, the ability of the Royal Society
and the Royal Academy of Engineering to communicate with the public
has been limited. It is recognised that the Royal Society has
developed a communicating science programme, which although early
in its development, appears well thought out and a good way to
progress. The role of the societies in communicating to the public
in relation to that of other bodies needs to be carefully considered.