Science ‘should have its own department’

The president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science has called on the Government to create an independent Department of Science. In his presidential address at the annual British Association Festival of Science, held in Cardiff, Professor Colin Blakemore said the Government should put an end to the Office of Science and Technology’s […]

The president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science has called on the Government to create an independent Department of Science.

In his presidential address at the annual British Association Festival of Science, held in Cardiff, Professor Colin Blakemore said the Government should put an end to the Office of Science and Technology’s ‘inappropriate’ location within the Department of Trade and Industry.

The Government should overhaul the way it deals with science-related policy issues and how it gets advice from the scientific community, Blakemore said. He questioned the way government is advised by the scientific community via scientific advisers to departments such as health and agriculture.

The new ministry ‘could establish a more coherent structure of management, extend advisory and consultative links to the other arms of government and co-ordinate the whole of science policy,’ said Blakemore.

It could find ways to integrate the lines of scientific advice the Government receives through the departments of health, Maff and the chief scientific adviser; and it could develop new ways of ‘taking the pulse of the scientific community on scientific issues’. It would also be better able to orchestrate responses to unexpected and urgent scientific problems, he said.

Blakemore said scientists and technologists had welcomed the setting up of the OST as part of the Cabinet Office by the last government. But then, in 1995, it had been shifted to the DTI ‘without explanation’.

Blakemore said he was ‘delighted’ by the recognition of the connection of science with industry.

But it was also linked to most other policy areas. ‘It’s hard to think of a department where scientific policy is not relevant,’ he said.

Interview, page 15