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Research sustainability taskforce details confirmed

Image: Richard Townshend [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons (left); Michelle Donelan Chippenham [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr (right)

Government confirms membership and goals of the ministerial group on sustaining university research amidst Covid-19

The government has confirmed the membership and terms of reference for the taskforce it says will sustain “the university research base and its capability to contribute effectively to UK society and economy in the recovery to coronavirus”.

The taskforce, first announced on 4 May alongside the government’s initial Covid-19 support package for the sector, is co-chaired by science minister Amanda Solloway, in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial strategy (BEIS), and universities minister Michelle Donelan, in the Department for Education (DfE).

The content of discussions within the taskforce, which has met twice already and will aim to meet fortnightly for up to two hours, will remain confidential, the government says, “given the sensitive nature of some of the issues that might be discussed”.

But Research Professional News understands that discussions during the two meetings have focused on whether there will be additional money from government to support university research, and if so, what will be expected of universities in return.

One taskforce member told Research Professional News that the success of the negotiations would depend on higher education institutions committing to “mobilise their own resources to work in partnership with government”, and that if they refused, decisions could be taken unilaterally by Number 10 and the Treasury, without input from the taskforce.

Today’s announcement confirms that the 17 members first revealed by Research Professional News on 13 May are on the taskforce.

In addition, there are five previously unreported members:

  • Lorna Gibbs, director of advanced learning and science at the Scottish Government
  • Angharad Penny-Evans, head of European transition for higher education policy at the Welsh Government
  • Trevor Cooper, from the Department for the Economy within the Northern Ireland executive
  • Jo Shanmugalingam, director general of the business and science Group at BEIS
  • Paul Kett, director general of the higher and further education Group at the DfE

Current membership is listed in full below.

“The purpose of the taskforce is to provide an advisory forum for ministers at BEIS and DfE to engage with university research and knowledge exchange stakeholders,” the government said in today’s announcement.

To support this work, the taskforce—officially called the Ministerial University Research and Knowledge Exchange Sustainability Taskforce—will “share information and intelligence about the health of the university research and the knowledge exchange carried out by and within higher education institutions”, the government said.

The taskforce will also identify “potential impacts on the sustainability of university research and knowledge exchange directly arising from the response to Covid-19” and “share intelligence on government and other sources of support or funding that may be available”.

It will aim to develop approaches that it hopes will “address the impacts of coronavirus and protect and sustain…research capability and capacity” and, where possible, “share evidence of the impacts on university research and knowledge exchange of the taskforce’s advice”.

All arrangements for the group, including membership and the need for the taskforce to continue its work, “will be reviewed on a quarterly basis”, the government says.

Full list of taskforce members:

  • Amanda Solloway MP, minister of state for science, research and innovation, BEIS (Joint Chair)
  • Michelle Donelan MP, minister of state for universities, DfE (Joint Chair)
  • Richard Lochhead MSP, minister for FE, HE & science, Scottish government
  • Kirsty Williams AM, minister for education, Welsh Government
  • Diane Dodds MLA, minister for the economy, NI Assembly
  • Lorna Gibbs, director of advanced learning and science, Scottish government
  • Dr Angharad Penny-Evans, head of European transition (HE Policy), Welsh government
  • Trevor Cooper, director of the higher education branch, Department for the Economy, NI Executive
  • Karen Watt, chief executive of Scottish Funding Council
  • David Blaney, chief executive Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
  • Jo Shanmugalingam, director general of business and science group, BEIS
  • Paul Kett, director general of HE and FE group, DfE
  • Emma Lindsell and Isobel Stephen, executive directors of strategy, performance and engagement (Jobshare), UK Research and Innovation
  • David Sweeney, executive chair, Research England
  • Nicola Dandridge, chief executive, Office for Students
  • Dr Julie Maxton, executive director, Royal Society
  • Alistair Jarvis, chief executive, Universities UK
  • Tim Bradshaw, chief executive, Russell Group
  • Clare Viney, chief executive, Vitae
  • Alan Langlands, vice chancellor, University of Leeds
  • Steve Smith, vice chancellor, University of Exeter
  • Paul Boyle, vice chancellor, Swansea University