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NERC issues clarification on future of centres

The British Geological Survey is not likely to be run by an external contractor, the Natural Environment Research Council has said.

The council will continue to explore options for the BGS to remain in the public sector, according to a statement published on 12 November. “Current thinking does not include considerations for the BGS to be run by an external contractor, as was the case for the National Physical Laboratory.”

The statement follows the publication of a story in Research Fortnight revealing that three research centres are preparing for independence from the research council and have updated staff on their preferred plans for the future. The three centres are the BGS, the National Oceanography Centre and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. The story reported that, according to staff, NOC and the CEH wish to become independent charitable companies, whereas the BGS hopes to be owned by the government but operated by an external contractor.

All three centres have been subject to a review of their governance and ownership since July 2013, when NERC began to collect views on whether to move them “outside the public sector”.

The statement also says that it is the council’s “understanding that the government’s Fair Deal for staff pensions would apply to NERC’s centres if they became independent of NERC, and existing staff in the centres would continue to be members of the existing Research Councils’ Pension Scheme”.

NERC’s council will meet on 3 and 4 December to discuss the next stage in the review process, the statement said.