Go back

Lib Dems to revise science and research policy

The Liberal Democrat Party has asked Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, to update its science and research policy.

Writing on the Liberal Democrat Voice website, Huppert says he welcomes members’ thoughts on what principles and policies should be included in the document.

Phil Willis, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, told Research Fortnight that it has been some 10 years since the party “radically updated” its science policy.

Willis, who says he will be involved in the policy changes, adds that the “failure” of current Lib-Dem policy is that it has been “incredibly introspective.

“What we need now is a policy which seeks a broader view in terms of where science is going,” he says. “Science should become mainstream rather than an ‘add on’.”

The new document is to be discussed and agreed at the party’s 2012 autumn conference, writes Huppert. It will cover science, technology, engineering and mathematics as well as social sciences and the humanities.

It would also aim to cover both pure and applied research and commercialisation, and guidelines on how government should use science and evidence in policy formulation.

Huppert argues that although there is more to be done, the party has managed to influence many decisions taken by the coalition government, including the protection of the science budget, pushing for more capital funding, and the re-creation of SMART awards for innovation.

Willis highlights the government’s recent strategies on the life sciences and innovation and research as particularly progressive and says the Lib Dems now have a role to play in ensuring that these strategies become reality.

He would particularly like to see in the document a “shake up of what I would call the conservatism … with our university research base.

“I’m hoping that … we’ll be a strong voice in saying that status quo is no good in the 21st century—we actually need to have a new form of cooperative research groups across universities,” he says.

“We often talk about innovation as something that comes out of universities or … the private sector. What we don’t talk about is how universities themselves should be innovative in the way they deliver the science and technology agenda,” he says.

“I shall be very much looking to stamp some innovation on the research sector itself,” he adds.