London, 20 September 2006
In January 2006, a draft version of the Evidence and Research Strategy was published on the DfT's website with an invite for public comment. Comments on the draft strategy were received from approximately 30 organisations, and summary of the themes that emerged are as follows:
* The need for cross-cutting research, looking at transport in the context of society more widely, and taking account of the needs of agencies with wide-ranging responsibilities, in particular, local authorities. This research would examine issues of balance; for instance, improving accessibility and supporting the economy with the need to tackle pollution and congestion. Research can illuminate this through monitoring and case-study work. Improvements were also suggested to improve DfT's data collection capacities and data dissemination procedures.
* A number of responders commented on the need to expand research into the linkages between transport and jobs, environmental change, quality of life issues, and the economy overall, with a view that such research would lead to better outcomes in terms of congestion mitigation, more efficient use of transport services including alternative fuels, reduced environmental impacts by transport, as well as a better understanding of the role of transport and climate change.
* Improving collaboration between central and local governments, partnership and research organisations, and with the private sector. In most instances, this was concentrated on improving evidence and research and disseminating the results in a timely and transparent manner. A repeated comment was the need to avoid duplication of effort and securing value for money.
* Expanding the text to include more issues specific to rail. This included concerns about the role of technology and rail's role in relation to changes in other transport systems.
* The Virtual Transport Research Centre prompted interest in terms of its development and how responders could get involved. [Further progress on this initiative is available on ESRC's website.]
* Suggestions were given for increasing the work skills and number of applicants available to provide research to the transport industry. Most were highly supportive of the proposals already outlined in the Strategy.
* Improving the quality of DfT's research commissioning in order to encourage more focused and transparent submissions by tenderers, including more specific proposals about desired outcomes, improved timetable compliance, more timely and transparent dissemination of findings and standardized research methodologies, plus increased contract oversight and feedback by government officials.
* We adjusted the final Strategy to reflect views outlined above where appropriate. In some cases it was viewed as more effective for the respective Units in the Department to consider the comments as they developed and implemented their Unit strategies. The Unit strategies may be viewed on the DfT's website.