Science and Society

Y’All: I still don’t really know what the BIS Science and Society strategy is about, do you?

I’ve been meaning to post this ever since it came across my Twitter feed some weeks ago.

If you go on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Science and Society Strategy pages you’ll see that they have published updated action plans for each of the ‘Expert Groups’ set up in 2010.  These groups were tasked to identify and take forward work in specific areas: the media, careers etc.  Progress varies widely and in some cases – such as the group focusing on ‘Trust’ – things are in a bit of limbo (you’ll just have to trust me on that one!).  Anyway, here’s the link to the rather euphemistically called ‘Science for All’ group as it seems the most relevant to (y’all you) people who might read my blog.

Clearly there’s some good work embedded in all this detail and BIS is asking for comment and feedback on what has been achieved.  But it’s not entirely clear to me what the impact has been.  And that is sort of curious given the onus on everyone else to demonstrate the outcomes of their work.

Fundamentally, I have always thought that the decision to go down this route of ‘Expert Groups’ had a number of flaws – beginning with the lack of inclusiveness.  Most of all that it suffered from not having a clearly articulated over-arching strategy and philosophy which conveyed how it all hangs together.  So it tends to come across as being a disjointed programme even if it is not behind the scences.  Plus you can’t help but think the onus has been on working vertically downwards through existing communities of practice rather than on developing networks and partnerships that break down boundaries.  As I say, that’s how it seems to me.  Which is a shame because I have had a little indirect contact with the team there which suggests this is an area of interest.

I say this with some hesitation because it will likely betray my complete ignorance of the subject.  But, for all the many faults of the EU and what it does around science and innovation, I rather warm to its Science and Society ‘Responsible Research and Innovation’ framework which has just been published in leaflet format.  At least it conveys a sense of vision and ambition and focuses on areas that really do seem to be about bringing society and science together.

Perhaps the advent of a new Chief Scientific Officer in 2013 will see the whole programme given a new lease of life.

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