Hands are off the helm

June 4, 2004

Sir Keith O'Nions, the new director-general of the research councils, received a bruising in Private Eye this week, with employees of the Natural History Museum, where he is chairman of the board of trustees, accusing him of wasting £400,000 on an investigation into alleged accounting discrepancies.

His assumption of his new role at the helm of British science has been considerably less dramatic. Indeed, research council insiders are beginning to query whether he is doing very much at all given that he is still spending four days a week in his old scientific adviser job at the Ministry of Defence. Sir Keith has assured research council heads that he aims to be a "hands-off" manager. But fears are growing that a hands-free approach may not be enough to secure a healthy handout from the Treasury.

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