‘Science superpower’ plan risks making UK bureaucracy superpower, says peer | science policy

Britain’s plan to become a “science and technology superpower” is so incomplete and so full of new organizational structures that the country risks becoming a “bureaucracy superpower” instead, he said.

Prof John Krebs, co-author of Lords’ report on the government’s global ambitions for science and technology, said that despite the laudatory rhetoric, there is no clear strategy for how the “superpower” ambition can be realized, and there is no reason to doubt it. To succeed.

Science and Technology Superpower: More Than a Slogan? Speaking at a briefing on the report, Lord Krebs said he feared that ministers could quietly drop or reduce the funding commitments needed to reach the target. Meanwhile, he said the establishment of the new National Science and Technology Council and the Office of Science and Technology Strategy on top of existing bodies such as UK Research and Innovation threatens to worsen the bureaucracy.

“The government’s plan to become a science superpower is great, but right now it feels like going for a marathon with your shoelaces tied together and no signposts telling you how to get to the finish line,” Krebs said. “There is a danger that the UK will become a bureaucracy superpower rather than a science superpower.”

The Cabinet Office said last year that cutting-edge science and technology is “necessary” to the country’s well-being in the digital age, declaring the UK’s “will to be one”.science and technology superpoweruntil 2030. The target is based on a commitment to raise research and development funding to 2.4% of GDP by 2027. reversal and trend Between 1985 and 2019, it saw financing fall from 1.84% of GDP to 1.74%.

Lady Brown, chair of the Lords committee, said that while the government has “high ambitions” for science and technology, the investigation found “a multitude of strategies” in different areas that had little linking them together. Meanwhile, numerous official bodies had misidentified or overlapping responsibilities, and it was often unclear who was responsible for what.

Having heard that more than a dozen strategies and initiatives linked to research and innovation were launched only in the life sciences between 2017 and 2021, the investigation has raised what Krebs called a “confusing landscape” and doubts that the government could be better at writing new strategies. rather than handing them over.

The report urges the government to be clear on what it wants to achieve and to publish a clear implementation plan with measurable targets. It calls for working more closely with business and the urgent appointment of a new science minister at cabinet level to meet the 2.4% GDP target. The post has been vacant since George Freeman resigned earlier last month.

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Colleagues continue to criticize the UK’s approach to international scientific collaborations. massive cutbacks in sudden overseas aid and one Europe’s failure to participate in the £80bn Horizon Europe The program is due to a debate over Brexit in Northern Ireland. “Disconnecting ourselves from the largest international collaborative program is an extremely incompetent thing,” Krebs said. The UK received much more money than it had put in from the previous Horizon programme.

Tory leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak said they were “almost silent” on science and technology, raising further doubts about the government’s commitment to the superpower goal. “This report and its conclusions and recommendations should be on the next prime minister’s desk as soon as he takes office,” he said. “What worries me – though not something the committee hasn’t looked into – is the emphasis on tax cuts, some of these commitments to increasing science spending could be quietly dropped or flipped.”

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