Policy-making is not immune to trends. The latest seems to be the ’roundtable’ meeting. I blame King Arthur myself (well, they say that trends do come round). But I bet he didn’t meet his knights at 9 or 8am.
This morning AMRC, the BioIndustry Association, Association of British Healthcare Industries and Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry held a roundtable breakfast entitled ‘Life Sciences – from research to patient.’
It was good to have the Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore MP, there – not least because Scotland has a good story to tell on science – as well as Julian Huppert MP, Roger Williams MP and Evan Harris.
With a wide spectrum of people from patient groups, charities, industry, academia and the NHS in the room the conversation ranged widely across many issues – science funding, regulation, science in parliament. It was a good follow-on from last night’s Royal Society meeting and as ever the politicians were asking for solutions and anwers to the issues facing them.
I was pleased that the Royal College of Surgeons and BMA raised the issue of enabling more doctors to undertake research and the general career path issues facing the clinical academics of the future and a number of people raised the possible issues for clinical research that will confront us with the new health economy that Andrew Lansley is intent on establishing and on which I have blogged before.
There also seemed some positive signs that the Coalition Government understand the need to at least describe the key elements of a long-term strategy on science to accompany the CSR annoucnement and help build confidence about the future.
We spent a good portion of the discussion on the proposed cap on non-EU migrants and its impact on science. Indeed, I get a sense at this week’s conference that there is now real momentum behind amending the plans so that they become more workable for science. Vince Cable’s remarks to the FT at the weekend have been well-reported, but I understand that the Home Affairs Select Committee is now digging around the issue and there certainly seems consensus here that something needs to be done pronto. Suffice to say we need to keep putting the evidence in.
Perhaps this issue will be one of those that might demonstrate how Coalition Government can truly work in the public interest, with one partner articulating at the most senior levels a body of opinion to which a single-party Government might otherwise be impervious. Let’s hope so anyway.
A passing thought before I head back to the conference. There is a strong coalition of public, charity and private sector of organisations here under the banner of the ‘Health Hotel’ which co-ordinate fringe meetings etc and have an exhibition stand.
Given the fact that research and science do not have major billing at this or the other conferences (albeit better than any previous one I have been to) I wonder whether all the science organisations should come together in a ‘Science Lab’ type coalition in future years.