What would the Tories need to do?

February 22, 2011 - Digital State Marketing

Conservative Science Policy

 

Introduction

It is critical that the Science Minister and senior Ministers engage the science community and set out their policies through:

• A speech by a key figure specifically on the subject of science and engineering.
• They need to set out a clear process to develop a comprehensive national science and engineering strategy, including building the evidence-base.

 

Educating the next generation.

Science and mathematics education is a clear policy area where the Science Minister will need to work with other ministerial colleagues. CaSE has had discussions with the Conservative team for

Children, Schools and Families and these are the key policy commitments that we want to see.

• Three separate sciences at GCSE level, at all schools and taught by specialist teachers.
• The introduction of the new pair of GCSEs in mathematics.
• Continued support for practical work in school, including the provision of technicians and equipment.

At higher education there needs to be a change in the ratio of funding from the current 1 to 7 to a 2 to 1, Lab based and Library-based subjects. This would allow more sustainable funding for expensive but necessary science, technology, and engineering courses.

As science and engineering are international endeavours it is very important that any changes to the visa system are designed not to interfere in the UK’s ability to engage international scientists and engineers in the UK.

 

Priorities for the next Science Budget

To instil confidence in its commitment to the Science Budget the Conservative government could:

• Ensure that any snap Budget for 2010/2011 does not affect the Science Budget allocation.
• Set a Science Budget for 2011/12 – 2013/2014 that is in line with the Science and Innovation Investment Framework (2004-2014). This would require setting a Science Budget that at least matches the projected economic growth for that period.

• Ring-fence the Science Budget from other spending commitments within the Department that provides its oversight.

 

Government portfolio of support for R&D investment

• Give greater consideration to the portfolio of public investment in R&D, which exists to deliver different policy objectives.
• There is no need to radically alter the dual support system. If any changes were to be proposed, then they should be thoroughly examined prior to being implemented.
• To develop emerging technologies they need to strengthen the Technology Strategy Board with a view to fostering industry and university collaboration.
• Protect government department R&D budgets to enable research that can evaluate the efficacy of current and planned policies. Departmental R&D spending plans should be published in advance.
• Ensure that the tax system (R&D Tax Credit) encourages industry investment in R&D in the UK.

• Commit to the Charity Research Support Fund.
• Openly advocate UK engagement in European and other international research collaborations.
• To examine the probable consequences of different investment strategies appointing a Chief Scientific Adviser to the Treasury would be a key move.

 

Parliamentary Scrutiny

• Setup a Commons Science and Technology Committee to support scrutiny of science and engineering policy.

 

Scientific Advice

• A Conservative Government could show the importance of putting science and engineering advice at the heart of government by moving the Government Office of Science and the Council for Science and Technology to the Cabinet Office.
• To ensure that all departmental chief scientific advisers have been appointed from outside government, they need to have open competitions for these roles.
• Ensure that the Ministerial Code is updated to incorporate the Principles of how ministers should treat scientific advice and advisers.

 

Key steps for an incoming Science Minister

•To ensure Cabinet co-ordination, they need to secure a place on the Cabinet and the Chair of a Cabinet sub-Committee on Science and Innovation.
• Show that the Government understands the importance of science, engineering and mathematics to the nation and is committed to developing the best policies during a difficult period.
• Ensure that there is consultation, clarity and transparency when setting high-level guidance on science and engineering research funding priorities.

• Develop the evidence base to inform science policy decisions, particularly with respect to the evaluation of policies to increase impact of research.

 

CaSE Letter to the Leaders

CaSE wrote to David Cameron and the other party leaders in March and asked them to respond to the following challenges prior to election day:

• Organise and utilise science and engineering within government
• Educate the next generation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics
• Enable science and engineering to create economic opportunities and respond to societal challenges

• Develop the UK’s strength in science and engineering research and development