Lords Science and Technology Committee to investigate state of UK's science infrastructure

29 May 2013

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee have launched a new inquiry into the UK’s science infrastructure. The Committee will look at large to medium-sized equipment and e-infrastructure used to support scientific research.  They will seek to identify whether a suitable long-term plan is in place for the initial investment, use, operational costs and upgrades of scientific infrastructure.

Lord Krebs, Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, said:

“Large scale science infrastructure such as super computers, telescopes and major lasers are of great importance to scientific endeavour. Internationally we have seen the impact the Large Hadron Collider in Cern has had on our understanding of the universe. It is essential that the UK has an investment strategy in place to develop its own infrastructure to support scientific discovery and, ultimately, economic growth.

“We will seek to establish whether there has been an adverse impact on UK scientific infrastructure from reduced Government investment, whether Government has a robust, fit-for-purpose process for identifying and planning for future infrastructure needs, and how infrastructure stimulates co-operation with industry, other academics and the EU. Our report will then set out the way ahead on this vital issue for Government.”

The Committee are inviting written evidence on the issue to be received by 21 June. Some of the specific questions the Committee pose for those submitting evidence are:

  • What scientific infrastructure is currently available in the UK and do UK researchers have sufficient access to cutting edge infrastructure? How does this compare to other countries?
  • What role should the Government play in ensuring there is an effective long-term strategy for meeting scientific infrastructure needs?
  • Is it more important to invest in large national infrastructure or medium infrastructure?
  • How were decisions on investment made since the Comprehensive Spending Review reached? What has been the impact on these decisions?
  • What has been the impact of removing capital spend from the ring-fenced budget? Should the ring fenced science budget be redefined to include an element of capital spend?
  • Are effective and fair arrangements in place for access and charging for public and private science infrastructure?
  • To what extent do funding structures in the UK help or hinder involvement in EU and international projects?
  • What impact does publically funded scientific infrastructure have in terms of supporting innovation and stimulating the UK’s economy?

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