Lords Science Committee to investigate research funding priorities

06 August 2009

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has announced a new inquiry into setting funding priorities for scientific and technological research.

The Committee will investigate how Government and other public bodies responsible for the allocation of funding for science and technology research set priorities in the context of likely overall cuts in public spending. The inquiry will cover all aspects of science and technology, including the medical and engineering sciences.

The Committee will focus on how decisions are made to fund research to meet societal needs, the balance of funding between targeted and curiosity-driven research, and how research is commissioned in Government departments.

The Committee invites written evidence from any interested parties. The deadline for submission of written evidence is Friday 25 September 2009.

The questions about which the Committee will seek evidence include:

  • What is the overall objective of publicly-funded science and technology research?
  • How are public funds allocated? Who is involved at each level of the decision making process? Where appropriate, is the Haldane Principle applied?
  • How are science and technology research priorities co-ordinated across Government?
  • Is the balance of Government funding between targeted and curiosity-driven, response-mode research appropriate? How will the current economic climate change the way funds are allocated in the future?
  • How is publicly-funded research aligned and co-ordinated with research that is not publicly funded? How can industry be encouraged to participate in research seeking to answer societal needs?
  • To what extent should publicly-funded science and technology research be focused on areas of economic importance? How should these areas be identified?
  • How does the UK science and technology research funding strategy compare with that of other countries? How does England compare with the devolved administrations?

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

"In the difficult economic times ahead, there will be increasing competition for resources to fund new scientific and technological research. In such an environment, it is vital there is a robust and effective system in place to allocate public funds.

"Our inquiry will seek to identify how funds are currently distributed, whether that system is appropriate and where improvements could be made.

"We would encourage anyone with an interest in this area to send us written evidence over the coming summer, enabling us to start to take oral evidence when Parliament returns from recess in October."

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