Researchers in the United Kingdom were concerned about how their voice would be heard in Parliament following a round of ministerial musical chairs earlier this month that saw the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) disbanded and responsibility for science shunted to the newly created Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Their minds were put at ease today when the House of Commons decided to reestablish its Science and Technology Committee.
This is a return to the status quo, since the Science and Technology Committee existed before a cabinet reshuffle in 2007. That previous committee had been unique because it did not, like other committees, oversee the affairs of a single government department but scrutinized the use of science across the whole of government. Researchers and parliamentarians were alarmed 2 years ago when the government shifted science from what was then the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) to the new DIUS. Oversight of science could come under parliament's DIUS committee, the government argued, so a separate science and technology committee was no longer needed. It looked like a voice for science would again be submerged earlier this month when science was moved to BIS, a new superministry that includes the old DTI. But the U.K. parliament today affirmed the value of a separate science and technology committee. “Today’s decision showed that there is strong support for proper scrutiny of science and engineering within Parliament. It is critical that future changes to government do not result in the abolition of the Science and Technology Committee. Today’s decision corrects the mistake made in 2007 of abolishing the Committee," says Nick Dusic of the Campaign for Science and Engineering.