Scientists given 2 weeks to plan10-year vision

March 19, 2004

The government has given top scientists a two-week deadline to write a two-page summary of how science should develop over the next ten years.

Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser, has written to about 25 leading figures in the science community asking for their "personal vision" for science.

He approached those who attended a breakfast meeting with Gordon Brown at the beginning of this month, during which the chancellor outlined a ten-year investment plan for science.

The scientists have until early next week to get their documents in, and many are still working on them.

Similarly frantic activity was taking place across the research councils.

The seven councils and the Arts and Humanities Research Board have been asked to submit a short joint paper outlining what they see as the main opportunities for the science base in the next ten years.

Paul Burrows, director of strategy at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council who is drafting the paper, told The Times Higher :

"I don't think we can nail it all. For a large part science is unpredictable. Instead we will highlight six really big questions we want to answer."

On the eve of the budget, Mr Brown announced a much broader consultation on his ten-year review, which is open to anyone from the science and business communities until April 30.

This document covers a broad range of priorities for investment, including:

  • Fostering world-class research at the UK's strongest centres of excellence
  • Maintaining financially robust universities and public labs
  • Making research responsive to the needs of the economy and public services
  • Increasing business investment in research and development
  • Improving skills and securing quality teachers and researchers
  • Building confidence across the UK in scientific research and innovation.

But many in the science community and in business remain unsure about the Treasury's review process.

Aisling Burnand, chief executive of the Bioindustry Association, said: "We are a little short on detail. They are conducting this consultation at breakneck speed."

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