Committee reassert call for systematic biology support
20 March 2009
The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee have today published the Government’s response to its follow-up report on Systematics and Taxonomy, published in August last year.
The Committee expresses its disappointment that the Government has remained unconvinced by its recommendation that the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) should be designated the lead department for systematic biology.
In their original report the Committee was critical of the way in which responsibility for systematic biology within Government was highly fragmented – with a range of departments including DIUS, Defra and DCMS all having some ownership over the discipline – and also of the lack of awareness within the departments about systematics issues. As the Committee commented in its original report, "diffuse responsibility results in no responsibility". The Committee stands by its original recommendation that DIUS should be given overall responsibility for systematic biology.
More positively, the Committee welcomes some moves by the Government to take forward its recommendations. These include:
- The decision to provide a financial contribution in 2008/09 towards the costs of assimilating the CAB International fungal reference collection at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (recommendation 7.21 in original report).
- The commissioning by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) of a study to ascertain the number of taxonomists in the UK (recommendation 7.4).
- The agreement to develop a roadmap for delivery of Internet-based taxonomy (recommendation 7.12).
- The acknowledgement by NERC of the need to provide clearer guidance on whether and in what forms it is prepared to fund classical taxonomy (recommendation (7.19)
Commenting Lord Sutherland, Chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, said:
"We are disappointed the Government has not accepted our recommendation that DUIS should be given overall responsibility for systematic biology.
"At a time of climate change and threats to biodiversity, systematics is a vital area of science and we feel it is very important that a single Government department and Minister should be given clear responsibility for ensuring it continues to flourish in the UK.
"In addition, in view of the subject matter, closer links between Scotland and England in correlating policy would be appropriate
"We are pleased however that the Government have accepted many of our other recommendations. We will keep the important issues of systematics and taxonomy under careful review."
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