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The UK National Audit Office has published a report on cross-government funding of research and development. This can be seen in the context of UK plans on Brexit and the need for UK Research and Innovation to develop leadership and strategic capabilities for the UK science base for the future. The findings are summarised as:
“Some areas of research have well-established arrangements to support coordination and collaboration between public-sector funders. But some newer areas, including important emerging technologies and areas of national importance, need more effective leadership.As a proportion of GDP the UK spends less on research and development than many comparable nations. Government needs a coherent view of the UK’s research strengths relative to other nations and analysis of funding in key areas of research, so that it can prioritise areas where activity is lagging behind and ensure the UK is investing in the right areas.”
In addtion to the Report, there are more detailed documents on methodology and key sectors that receive funding from multiple sources in government:
- Research and Development Evaluative Framework
- Research and development case study Climate research
- Research and development case study Energy research
- Research and development case study Human health research
- Research and development case study Robotics and autonomous systems research
- Research and development case study Advanced materials research
- Research and development case study Animal and plant health research
Brexit has loomed large in UK science policy discussions from early 2016. Recent thinking and views in March 2017 are reflected in:
- An Editorial from James Wilsdon in Science magazine (DOI: 10.1126/science.aan2673). James is now Professor of Research Policy at the Unviersity of Sheffield.
- An adjournment debate in the UK House of Lords, introduced by the Earl of Selborne, focused on the second of two reports in 2016 from the HoL Select Committee on Science and Technology. The first in April 2016 was EU Membership and UK Science. The second, published in December 2016, was A Time for Boldness: EU Membership and UK Science after the Referendum
The UK Government Office for Science, headed by Sir Mark Walport, has published its 2014 annual report. It covers the functions of the office, including the key workstreams for 2013-14:
- science, big data, analytics and the City [of London] - creating a new alignment [use of big data in finance]
- opening up scientific research data [G8 and open data]
- Alan Turing Institute [UK research capabilities in data science]
- Climate change; science and communication [there was also a House of Commons committee report on this in 2013]
- Chief Scientific Adviser's forthcoming report on innovation, risk and regulation
- horizon scanning [there was another parliamentary committee report on this as well]
- foresight - manufacturing, city futures, demographic change, ageing society, computer trading in financial markets, and migration and global environmental change.
The UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has published Science and Innovation: international benchmarking, showing the UK in an international context with a few other countries. Shows areas of strength and weakness for the UK, with a strong message of the importance of sustained national investment in R&D, where the UK is falling behind similar countries.
In a broader international context, it's interesting to read the biennial OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2013: Innovation for Growth which gives detailed international comparisons within OECD and for a range of other countries. This is published in alternate years to an outlook statistical report, the latest being the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Outlook 2012.
UK statistics on Science, Engineering and Technology are published annually, with the most recent for 2013. A useful overview since 1995 was produced in 2013 by the National Audit Office for the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee to inform its 2013 inquiry on Research and Development Funding for Science and Technology in the UK.
The UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has launched a consultation on the future of some of its research centres - British Geological Survey (BGS), the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS) - asking whether they should be given independent status. Deadline for comment 30 August 2013
The UK National Audit Office has produced a memorandum - Research and Development Funding for Science and Technology - for the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in preparation for an inquiry on R&D funding - deadline for submission of evidence 28 August 2013.
A very valuable resource on science advice in government in the UK is available from the Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy - report edited by Rob Doubleday and James Wilsdon, previews and seminar media are available on the website