Scots told to give scientists a boost

April 28, 2000

Scotland should give contract researchers a better deal in a bid to boost the science base, a review group has told Henry McLeish, Scotland's minister for enterprise and lifelong learning.

Mr McLeish is consulting on the report of the 15-member science strategy review group. But he has agreed in principle with one of its key recommendations, to set up a body to advise the Scottish Executive on science issues.

Launching the report at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, Mr McLeish said: "The science base in Scotland has a crucial role to play in our economic future. Science underpins a range of other aspects of the Scottish Executive's responsibilities, including health, the environment and social policies."

The review says that significant numbers of innovative researchers are on short-term contracts.

"Scotland could take the lead in providing enhanced linkages between research workers and industry, and in facilitating the career paths for scientists, which will be essential to maintain this skills base in the longer term."

It also stresses the need for lifelong learning for scientists.

Echoing concerns from the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals, the review group says that one of the key constraints on technology transfer in Scotland "is the lack of 'industry pull' to match 'technology push'".

Higher education is very active in commercialising research, it says, but there is a need to promote more business investment.

A key question for any Scottish science strategy is how it would link to science policy in the UK, Europe and beyond. The review stresses that under the devolution settlement, some aspects of science, notably the research councils, still come under the Westminster government.

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