S&T Committee (Commons): International policies and activities of the Research Councils

01 April 2007

The Royal Society submitted evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee enquiry into 'The International Policies and Activities of the Research Councils'. Summary of key points:

  • We do not believe that the international directorate of the Office of Science and Innovation (OSI) and the Research Councils (RCs) allocate sufficient budget to effective international collaboration, or that their existing budget is being used to have maximum impact. The UK cannot remain a leader in science if it does not actively engage with the best science around the world.
  • Overall, it is not clear what the international strategies of the RCs are. Although they have a sophisticated strategic approach to their thematic priorities, it would appear that some of the Councils have yet to incorporate a coherent international dimension into their overall strategy. In addition, the RCs need to develop more strategic partnerships with organisations that offer a complementary portfolio of activities designed to be attractive to both overseas partners and the UK. 
  • We urge the RCs to actively pursue an international strategy which aims to make the UK the partner of choice for scientific research worldwide. This would require some RCs to actively develop an international strategy. International strategies should include the use of dedicated funds for international collaboration and substantial jointly-funded programmes with overseas partners. They should also identify ways to promote UK science worldwide, and seek to implement policies that encourage international mobility among postdoctoral researchers and postgraduate students.
  • The OSI International Directorate should continue to devolve funds to the Royal Society and British Embassies in priority countries in order to continue to generate international interest in themed events and grants schemes, which are having a major impact in stimulating international collaboration. It should work more closely with the RCs to offer larger funding packages, in conjunction with overseas partners, for high-level bilateral agreements, in addition to the comparatively small packages it currently offers.
  • The establishment of the Global Science and Innovation Forum (GSIF), the Core Official Group (COG), which operates below GSIF, the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UK CDS)  and the Research Councils UK (RCUK) China office, are all developments which the Royal Society welcomes. We hope that these bodies will encourage greater coordination between UK stakeholders, and further promote engagement and collaboration with overseas partners.