Ministers criticise DFID's science culture

October 29, 2004

The Department For International Development, which oversees an annual research budget of more than £150 million, has demonstrated a "fundamental lack of scientific culture", MPs say.

In a report published on Tuesday, the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee reveals that the DFID failed to submit a single argument for additional research funding from the Treasury during the Government's ten-year review of science.

The report notes that when asked to contribute to the ten-year review, unveiled in July, the department simply sent a copy of its draft research strategy and said: "These are the kinds of things we are interested in."

The select committee report says: "By failing to engage properly in these discussions, the DFID may have missed an important opportunity to make the case for increased funding for science, technology and research."

The report goes on to criticise the way that the DFID developed its internal research strategy, concluding that the department damaged its relationship with UK researchers "by creating the impression that it was not interested" in their input.

Nick Brown, a lecturer at the Forestry Institute at Oxford University, told the committee that academics had a "sense of outrage" because the strategy seemed to be developed "behind closed doors with very little consultation with many of the actors who have enormous experience".

But the report praises the DFID for its "long-overdue" decision to recruit a chief scientific adviser.

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