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Forestry Commission implementation of recommendations

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS IN THE GOVERNMENT'S CROSS CUTTING REVIEW OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

The following is the Forestry Commission's departmental plan for the implementation of the recommendations in the Government's Cross Cutting Review of Science and Technology.

Recommendation C1

Departmental published science and innovation strategies should be costed, including actual and projected costings for research and development in the current Spending Review period and beyond, and this costing should be provided to the appropriate Treasury Spending Team, and copied to OST.

For 2001/02/03 the information is published at Appendix 1 of our 2001 Research Strategy.

Recommendation C2

Departmental Analyses of Resources submitted to the Treasury and early Spending Review discussions between the Treasury and departments should, in future, clearly identify the research component. Departments should agree research budgets for the SR period with the Treasury, in consultation with OST, before settlement letters are issued. The working assumption, as in the last SR, should be that expenditure on research will at least be maintained real terms.

The research component of the Commission's budget is clearly identified in Spending Review documentation. The Forestry Commission aim is to maintain expenditure on research in real terms, though the Spending Review conclusion fell slightly short of that aim with a reduction of 2% in 2003/04.

Recommendation C3

Based on the recommendation in Section A of this report that HEIs should recover full economic costs for much of the research undertaken for government departments, departments need to ensure that their future costings fully take account of the cost implications of the Transparency Review, for any research contracts they intend to place with HEIs.

We have noted the implications of the Transparency Review and will be allowing for the full recovery of economic costs by HEIs in future.

Recommendation C4

Departments should not transfer resources from, or fall below, the agreed research and development allocation as set out in the settlement letters without seeking permission from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in writing, and consulting the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser.

Forestry Commission has noted this recommendation and will comply if circumstances require research cuts to be proposed.

Recommendation C5

Every department which conducts or commissions an appreciable amount of research, or uses science should have a Chief Scientific Adviser, accountable to the Secretary of State and Ministers for science procurement and advice within the department. Departments which rely heavily on scientific and technological input across the range of their activities need a more or less full time Adviser, with a place on the department board. Other departments will not necessarily have places on strategy boards, but should ensure that the Chief Scientific Adviser meets the board several times a year, and spends enough time with the department to understand its work.

The Forestry Commission's needs are met by the Chief Executive and the Chief Research Officer of Forest Research (FR), its dedicated research agency. The former has a place on the department's Policy Board and the Chief Research Officer (CRO) attends whenever needed. The CRO is a senior and widely respected forest scientist.

Forestry is a devolved matter but forest research is centrally funded. The Chief Executive and Chief Research Officer of the research agency are extremely well placed to provide advice both to UK departments and to the devolved administrations.

We believe this arrangement is well suited to both the scale and nature of the research programme and to understanding the national context of the forestry issues that it supports.

Recommendation C6

The Government's Chief Scientific Adviser should be involved in the appointment of departmental Chief Scientific Advisers, so he can ensure that appropriate criteria are being applied across Government.

FC has no CSA (see C5). The Commission will, however, ask the CSA in DEFRA to assist in any future appointment of the FR Chief Executive or CRO.

Recommendation C7

Departmental Chief Scientific Advisers should be accountable to Ministers and the department top-level board for the level of scientific expertise in the department. They should review regularly the deployment of that expertise, report to the Board on whether that resource is optimally deployed, and make changes when needed.

While the Forestry Commission does not have a Chief Scientific Adviser the Forestry Commission top level board, including the CRO of Forest Research, have considered the scientific staff and their deployment as part of the implementation of the recent Forestry Devolution Review and the Quinquennial Review of Forest Research. The Commission Research Strategy and the Research Strategy of FC Forest Research Agency are considered by the UK Forestry Minister and the Forestry Ministers of Scotland and Wales jointly once a year.

Recommendation C8

Chief Scientific Advisers will need to work in partnership with their department's personnel function to review and categorise posts in terms of the requirement for scientific expertise. Departments should maintain records on specialist staff in order to be able to identify their scientific qualifications and experience.

The focused nature and small size of the Forestry Commission, and its well-developed record systems, allow us to meet this recommendation.

Recommendation C9

Chief Scientific Advisers across Whitehall should act to ensure that professional staff engaged in research management undertake continuing professional development and are exposed to the latest science in their area of work.

Such development is embodied in the FC Personnel Management System and Personal Development Plans. We recognise and emphasise the special needs of professional staff engaged in research commissioning and management and provide an appropriate level of opportunity and resources.

Recommendation C10

Departmental Chief Scientific Advisers should work together, and with the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, to ensure that opportunities and resources for career progression for scientists are available across the civil service wherever appropriate.

The Forestry Commission recognises the value of such opportunities for its scientists and for its other professional staff. An increasing number of movements are already taking place between the Forestry Commission, other parts of the Civil Service, overseas institutions, and indeed the private sector.

Recommendation C11

Departments should ensure that knowledge transfer objectives are included in their science and innovation strategies and in their research programmes. A senior official should be responsible for delivery, by the department and the PSREs for which it is responsible, of the action points listed in the Government Response to the Baker Report, Small Business Research Initiative targets and other relevant guidance. Treasury and OST should continue to monitor implementation of the Baker Report.

Such objectives are partly the current (2001) FC Research Strategy. The issue of the transfer of knowledge and technology was thoroughly re-examined in the Quinquennial Review of Forest Research. Most research commissioned is strongly focused on knowledge transfer outputs to users and this is an important part of the Research Strategy and procurement. Technology transfer is the subject of several performance indicators in the Framework Document of the FC Forest Research Agency.

Recommendation C12

Departments should ensure that the PSREs for which they are responsible have a framework in place for commercial exploitation. As far as possible, they should ensure that their PSREs are given the financial and other freedoms recommended by the Baker Report. Where a department does not consider such freedoms to be appropriate, it should justify its decision by writing to the Treasury, copied to OST, to explain its reasons.

This was closely examined in FR's current quinquennial review and included in the new Framework Document of the FC Research Agency together with a performance indicator. The issue of commercialisation is receiving specific attention and it is likely that existing freedom to commercialise will be strengthened and that a suitable performance indicator will be identified. Forest Research has good links with Partnerships UK.

Recommendation C13

The PSRE fund, which was worth 10 million in SR2000, should be continued in SR2002 at least at that level to support the aim of developing knowledge transfer capacity. Consideration should be given to the creation of a separate seed corn fund.

The FC hopes to access the fund.

Recommendation C14

When departments undertake a major review of policy or launch public consultations on policy development, they should consult their Chief Scientific Adviser at an early stage and report on the scope for enhancing the evidence base and on how they will deliver and evaluate improvements in knowledge and technology transfer.

The arrangements for scientific advice in the absence of a Chief Scientific Adviser have been explained (above). These arrangements ensure scientific input to policy development reviews and consultations, and direct involvement of the Chief Executive of our Research Agency in considering the results of consultations. This is however an area which we shall be considering further in the light of new policy structures for England as a result of the implementation of the recent Forestry Devolution

Review during 2003.

Recommendation C15/Recommendation C16

The Government's Chief Scientific Adviser should explore the scope for increased use of merged research budgets in cross-cutting areas of research.

Departments, with OST, should ensure that, within those areas of science on which they rely, arrangements for government funded research across the spectrum from basic to applied are sufficiently co-ordinated to ensure that their future research needs will continue to be met, and that they take action if this does not appear to be the case.

The Forestry Research Co-ordination Committee, an interdepartmental committee of research purchasers, already carries out such a function. There are several areas of forestry research where programmes or projects are collaboratively funded and the FC contributes to research led by other departments in, for example, climate change and water resources.

Forestry Commission
January 2003