Parliamentary Committee questions Government commitment to science

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The Government has reduced science to a political bargaining chip and must raise its game to produce an ambitious science and engineering strategy for the future, according to a report published by the Parliamentary Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee.

The Committee says that, while there are many positives to take from its inquiry into science and engineering policy in Government, such as the growth of the science and engineering community in the civil service, a broad vision is missing. In particular, the Committee is concerned about the failure to find a stable home for the Government Office for Science. This, it claims, has reduced science and engineering advice to, at best, a peripheral policy concern, and, at worst, a political bargaining chip. In its report, the Committee appeals directly to the Prime Minister to bring Science into the Cabinet Office and it urges the creation of a Government Chief Engineer and a Government Chief Scientist. Phil Willis MP, Committee chair, said: "My Committee does not underestimate how important the Government believes the role of science and engineering advice to be. We were impressed by evidence demonstrating that significant progress is being made, such as the increasing use of Chief Scientific Advisers. "We ask that a tangible and ambitious strategy for UK science and engineering policy is developed. The Government has committed to placing science and engineering advice at the heart of policy formulation and now it is time to do so: scrutiny of policy must be strengthened and a clearer vision for the future must be developed." The report also finds that, if the Government is to return to 'picking winners', it must have clear priorities and come clean about which areas of research will get less money. And it believes that, after the general election, a new free standing Science, Engineering and Technology Committee should be created with a cross departmental remit.