Defra seeks to glean science ideas

January 18, 2002

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is asking the scientific community for ideas about what it should be researching.

Lord Whitty, Defra science minister, launched the department's Horizon Scanning programme last week.

It is designed to "provide a means for others to challenge Defra's current policy approaches and assumptions, to look for weaknesses and analyse data in new ways".

It will also offer a route for commissioning work on areas not seen as current policy priorities.

The department's annual research budget is £140 million.

"The BSE inquiry and guidelines from the government's chief scientific adviser both identify horizon-scanning as an important part of anticipating issues likely to be important in the future," Lord Whitty said.

The programme will be managed by the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University.

In April, it is due to submit proposals to an external advisory panel chaired by Anna Bradley, director of the National Consumer Council, which will pass on recommendations to Defra.

Formerly the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the department has come under severe criticism over the past decade for its handling of issues such as BSE and foot and mouth.

In December, it appointed a new chief scientific adviser, Howard Dalton, chairman of Warwick University's department of biological sciences.

Professor Dalton's appointment was at a higher grade than previous chief scientists in the departments to deal with the Defra's increased brief, which now includes the environment.

Peter Cotgreave, director of Save British Science, said that repeated cuts in Defra's internal science research budget meant that horizon scanning had not been happening, leaving the government totally exposed in the event of a crisis.

Dr Cotgreave praised Lord Whitty's initiative, but warned that the research budget was still too low.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns