Is the Council for Science and Technology Fit-for-Purpose?

It is a question all Boards and Committees should ask themselves.

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced the final names making up the re-formed Council for Science and Technology. Many of the final selection are people I much admire and David Cameron can be confident he is in good hands when it comes to scientific advice.

But it is curious – and this is purely a personal opinion – that the new membership would seem to leave the Government strategically naked when it comes to that most difficult of tasks – how to communicate scientific endeavour when it pushes the boundaries of public acceptability. I certainly can’t see a name that is instantly recognisable as filling that role anyway.

The common thread running through recent controversies such as GM foods and hybrid embryos is that the then sitting Government found it a struggle to steer a steady and confident course to safety. In the latter instance, it positively scrabbled and begged others outside to make the case on its behalf. Fortunately, the resulting campaign was a success.

When the Government announced the appointment process for the Council I did get the various application papers with half a mind to apply. For I may be wrong but I am sure that it was actively seeking candidates who might be able to give a more ‘public’ view of things.

It would be interesting to know if such people put themselves forward wouldn’t it?

In the meantime I worry that David Cameron may well emerge from CST meetings enthused by his latest science lesson but with few pointers on how to pass it on to the nation.

Sounds like the first job of the new Council might be to do a skills audit. As the old-hands in Board-land will tell you, when in doubt, co-opt or get a guest speaker.

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