Product has been added to the basket

BIS Creating the Future: A 2020 Vision for Science and Research Consultation

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has launched a consultation on their recently published report: Creating the Future: A 2020 Vision for Science and Research. Details of the report and consultation along with the Terms of Reference can be found on the government website.

The Geological Society contributed to a discussion convened by the Science Council, along with several of their other member bodies, which informed their submission to the inquiry. View the Science Council submission. The Society also produced an individual response which can be found below.

Submitted 3 July 2014

  1. The Geological Society is the UK’s learned and professional body for geoscience, with more than 11,000 Fellows (members) worldwide. The Fellowship encompasses those working in industry, academia and government with a broad range of perspectives on policy-relevant science, and the Society is a leading communicator of this science to government bodies, those in education, and other non-technical audiences.
  2. We have not attempted to respond to all the questions set out in the consultation document. The Geological Society contributed to a discussion convened by the Science Council, together with several of its other member bodies. We support the evidence they have presented, and offer some supplementary comments below. In particular, we strongly support the following principle raised in the Science Council submission, in the context of geoscience:
  3. Capital spending should not be conceived of in terms of equipment alone. Investment of this sort is a community-wide resource and the skilled, trained personnel required to maintain and utilise facilities, as well as the institutional frameworks within which they operate, play a vital part. In planning investment, it is important that running costs and skills capacity are included in the budgeting and allocation process in order to maintain the continued work of that facility and to reduce the risk of wasted investment. It is also important to invest in people and therefore skills to secure ongoing productivity of big capital spend projects. Sustaining the supply of skilled personnel to underpin the capability to support capital projects and facilities depends on the continued availability of PhD programs with on-site training on the use of facilities, training of specialist technicians, and support for the workshops where equipment is run and maintained.
  4. In addition to the more strategic, general points made in the Science Council response, it is important to bear in mind the differences that exist between science disciplines and their modes of research. Geoscience research, unlike that in some other science disciplines, often addresses questions relating to particular times and geographical locations, as well as generalised natural laws, even in the case of fundamental research. This is significant for the design of appropriate investment strategies. For this reason, investment in international partnerships is particularly important in geoscience in order to facilitate raw data collection and analysis that depends on measurements being made at specific times and locations, and to ensure the subsequent interoperability of these data. This is not simply a matter of filling gaps in data coverage, but of being able to assess Earth systems holistically and at a planetary level in order to better understand the complex interactions that control our environment, for example in the furthering of our understanding of climate change.
  5. Investment in ‘big data’ also merits careful consideration. There are several factors to consider. The need for advanced computing facilities to rapidly handle very high volume data is self-evident. Careful attention to interoperability of data is also important, especially in the context of international collaboration. Building on past investment can improve the interoperability of data across national boundaries and through time, as well as enabling the use of new data analysis techniques to analyse, manipulate, interpret and visualise new and diverse data sets. Very long term data sets gathered over many decades are a vital resource for understanding environmental change, but their continuing value depends on sustaining the collection of these data, and capital expenditure is necessary to enable this to happen. Discontinuous long term data sets are of little use. Projects such as the One Geology ( initiative and our national climate and monitoring archives are assets in terms of their curatorial value and status as national archives. These would benefit significantly from investment in big and open data networks.