Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, June 29, 2007

UK govt reorganizes departments responsible for research and education

One of Gordon Brown's first acts as the new UK Prime Minister was to reorganize the government departments responsible for research and education.  This doesn't affect OA policy yet, but it's bound to before long.

First, Stephane Goldstein summarizes the changes:

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has lost its responsibility for the Research Councils and science policy and has become the new Department  for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (the elegant-sounding DBERR).  The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has transformed itself into the new Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), and no longer looks after higher education in England....

Out of the ashes emerges a sparkling new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) which will, to quote the currently sparse website, "bring together the nation's strengths in science, research, universities and colleges to build a dynamic, knowledge-based economy."

So, for the first time in about fifteen years (please correct me if I'm wrong), responsibility for higher education research is not split between two Departments.  Put in another way, both strands of the dual support system will be overseen by the same Secretary of State; the man in question is John Denham, who joins the Cabinet for the first time.  In this way, all research will be directly represented at the Cabinet table in a way that hasn't been the case previously.  Good news maybe?

At time of writing, the more junior ministerial appointments haven't yet been made, so it is not yet known who will be Minister for Science, assuming there is still such a function....Nor do we yet know how the new arrangements will affect the relationships and dynamics between the Research Councils and HEFCE (the non-English funding bodies don't report to DIUS), and the operation of the Office of Science and Innovation - not to mention the future of dual support funding itself....

Universities UK generally supports the changes:

Drummond Bone, President, Universities UK, said: "This is an exciting and forward-looking move, which we welcome. It creates an extremely powerful ministry and clearly shows the central place that higher education holds in Mr Brown's vision for the future of the country. Universities are key to the generation and exploitation of new knowledge in the UK, so there is a clear rationale for moving Science and Innovation to the new department....

"It is crucial, however, that the integrity of the dual support system for funding research in universities with an unhypothecated stream of resource is not lost in this move."