Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Night of the Long Knife

Research Fortnight has reported that Adrian Smith, Director General of Science and Research at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (that's DGSR at BIS) for the last two years, is for the chop.

Now stiffle that yawn and pay attention at the back. This is more important than it sounds. See, the DGSR is the person responsible for the Research Councils at BIS. If he's to be replaced by a career civil servant - which looks likely at the moment - research might lose its strong voice.

The cutting of the DGSR is part of a bigger shake up of BIS. Science, research, universities and space will now all be bundled together in the somewhat gnomic and Orwellian 'Knowledge and Innovation'. Surely that's doubleplusgood?

Not so. The Chief Scientific Adviser, John Beddington, considered the decision 'deeply regrettable'. His predecessor Robert May went further, calling it 'substantially both stupid and ignorant and it is politically foolish..If [the head of the new section] is a successful civil servant they are very unlikely to know much about science.'

Let's hope the career civil servant is sympathetic to science - or wears a hard hat.

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