Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal SocietyThe UK research landscape is entering a period of change as the Government develops its plans to implement the recommendations of the Nurse Review. The Society and others in the community are keen to work with them to ensure that any changes to the research landscape build a better system for the future that has the support of the research community.

The Society has today published a statement, setting out the key principles we hope to see guiding the government’s plans for the future of research, teaching and innovation.

There is every indication that the government remains committed to the Haldane principle, which is essential.  We also want to see Government encourage connections between the Research Councils, Innovate UK and QR funding, while preserving their autonomy. It is highly desirable that the leadership positions created in any new structures can attract and support scientists of the highest reputation. The formation of a high-level oversight body for science, chaired by a senior minister, would also embed the best possible integration of research into the business of government.

Discussions with the community

Over the past few months, we have been part of many discussions about the future landscape for UK research and innovation.  In these discussions, our community is considering the implications of the implementation of the Nurse Review, the proposals in the government’s Higher Education Green Paper, and possible changes to the way that research quality is assessed that might follow Lord Stern’s Review of the Research Excellence Framework.

We have been working with our sister Academies to host a series of PolicyLab events, bringing together a range of stakeholders to discuss some of the key issues.

At the first event, Adrian Smith chaired a discussion of what it might mean to position research closer to the heart of government. At the second event, Sir Paul Nurse joined a panel to discuss the thinking behind his report, and consider the key risks and opportunities associated with its implementation. You can listen to those events, or read the Society’s blogs summarising the discussions.

Working with government

The statement we have published today reiterates positions that the Society has previously adopted in our submissions to the Nurse Review, the Higher Education Green paper and the Stern Review.  Through this public statement, we aim to draw together what we feel should be the key considerations for the Government as they develop their plans.

The UK research system is composed of interlocking components and implementation of the Nurse Review will require many technical changes. These must collectively add up to a coherent strategic vision.

The Academies will be continuing to convene discussions through our PolicyLab events. On 4 May, we’ll be considering the future of innovation support, and on 13 June the series will finish with a look further ahead, towards visions for UK research and innovation in 2030.

I look forward to continuing to work with the Government and the wider community through this period of change, to ensure that the UK can develop an even stronger system to support research, teaching and innovation in the future.