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Why is the Treasury hiding its chief scientist?

Phil Willis

Few government appointments can have received less fanfare than that of James Richardson as the Treasury’s new Departmental Chief Scientific Adviser. When I announced the long-awaited appointment during a House of Lords debate, I expected some enthusiasm from the government bench. After all this completes a decade of expansion resulting in a scientific adviser in every major government department. Surely the arrival of a Treasury CSA was something to be celebrated?

But the minister’s embarrassment that the ‘secret’ was out made me question its rationale. The Treasury failed even to issue a press notice. Eventually government CSA John Beddington offered his support via a short article on New Scientist’s S-Word blog. But the most telling comment came from an unnamed spokeswoman who stated that, “the post of the chief scientific adviser will be taken alongside James’ current responsibilities as Director of Public Spending and the Chief Micro-economist at the Treasury”. This is a clear indication that the role of Treasury chief scientist will hardly have priority in the Richardson diary.

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