MPs to resume science scrutiny

Some good news at last from the House of Commons. MPs agreed today to establish a Science and Technology Committee, following a short, sharp lobbying campaign by Britain’s research organisations.

The move follows the Prime Minister’s decision three weeks ago to fold the old Department of Innovation Universities and Skills (DIUS) – which covered science and higher education – into Peter Mandelson’s huge Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) department.

That reorganisation made redundant the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills committee, which had scrutinised DIUS. But Phil Willis, its chairman, successfully argued to the Commons authorities that science would be lost within the BIS monster, if they did not give it a separate committee.

So the old IUSS Committee will morph seamlessly into a new Science and Technology Committee on October 1. That basically restores the position we had before the previous government reorganisation two years ago.

Congratulations to Mr Willis for fighting his ground and to everyone who supported him. As he says, “I cannot stress enough how vital the role of this Committee will be in ensuring that the Government’s science policy is held to account and that adequate attention is given to such a crucial policy area.”

(And apologies to readers elsewhere in the world for whom all this may seem terribly parochial. It does matter for British science policy!)

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Clive Cookson, the FT's science editor, picks out the research that everyone should know about, in fields from astronomy to zoology. He also discusses key policy issues, from R&D funding to science education. He'll cover the weird and wonderful, as well as the serious side of science.

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