The clear support of Malcolm Wicks, minister responsible for the Department for Education and Employment's research strategy, for scholarly independence and integrity is welcome (Soapbox, THES, May 5), as is the growing willingness among civil servants and others to engage in dialogue with researchers.
But it is a pity that Wicks needed to reassure the research community in the first place. There have been statements, by ministers and civil servants, that have not encouraged researchers to be tough and independent in presenting their findings. In a pluralist society, the government needs rigorous, critical and informed voices. In the context of moves towards a knowledge economy, this becomes more rather than less important.
Perhaps Wicks's contribution is part of a wider movement among policy-makers to encourage a view of governance as a process that routinely involves learning. I very much hope so.
John Field. Professor of lifelong learning. University of Warwick.