Society accused of stalling funding

June 21, 2002

The Royal Society was recalled by MPs this week to explain events leading up to the resignation of Bridget Ogilivie from the Committee on the Public Understanding of Science.

The House of Commons science and technology committee called the society for a second time in its inquiry into government funding of learned societies.

Dame Bridget resigned as chair of Copus in May, accusing the Royal Society of holding back progress on increasing funding to remodel the organisation.

Last week, she told the MPs: "I just don't know why the Royal Society is not bothered. I don't think there's a hidden agenda, they're just not bothered."

Ian Gibson, chair of the commons committee, said: "Although Copus is based in the Royal Society, Dame Bridget said she had never seen the accounts. Our job is to make sure that organisations operating with government money do so properly."

In her resignation statement, Dame Bridget says: "I am highly embarrassed by the total paralysis shown so clearly by the last two meetings of Copus council. As things stand, it is pointless to continue."

Copus was set up in 1986 by the Royal Society, the Royal Institution and the British Association to improve science communication in the UK. It is housed in the Royal Society, which administers its £460,000 annual budget from the Office of Science and Technology.

In 2000, the House of Lords Science and Society report recommended that the OST provided funds to allow Copus to become an umbrella body for science communication organisations.

In a joint statement this week, the founding partners announced that Lord Jenkin of Roding would take over as Copus chair.

It added: "We share Dame Bridget's disappointment that more rapid progress was not made in mapping out a new role for Copus."

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