Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Unfashionable Opinions Ahoy

Our MPs are great.

It's hard to imagine a more unfashionable opinion, but it becomes much easier to justify when you read today's report from the Innovations, Universities and Skills committee which looks at the work of DIUS and the Research Councils, and concentrates on the debacle of the STFC's science funding.

The report makes some excellent statements, but essentially, it berates the Government for forgetting the Haldane Principle, which is "
named after Richard Burdon Haldane, the 1st Viscount of Haldane, who chaired a committee in 1918 which produced a report (known as the Haldane Report) that recommended that non-departmental-specific research should be managed by scientists through 'Research Councils'"

I will quote the conclusion to the section on the STFC in full

STFC's problems have their roots in the size of the CSR07 settlement and the legacy of bringing CCLRC and PPARC together, but they have been exacerbated by a poorly conceived delivery plan, lamentable communication and poor leadership, as well as major senior management misjudgements. Substantial and urgent changes are now needed in the way in which the Council is run in order to restore confidence and to give it the leadership it desperately needs and has so far failed properly to receive. This raises serious questions about the role and performance of the Chief Executive, especially his ability to retain the confidence of the scientific community as well as to carry through the necessary changes outlined here.

Let's hope that some lessons are learnt from this and UK science suffers no lasting damage. That the IUS Committee have been so forceful gives me hope.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

ONS Independence Day (Guaranteed Rickroll Free)

Here at the sober coal face of graduate employment research, we do not do seasonal levity.

Today sees the launch of the UK Statistics Authority, the body charged with the implementation of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 (well, someone might want to read it. We're all about sourcing here.)

Or, in other words, the body who now oversee the Office of National Statistics, who are no longer under direct ministerial control. The whole stats function for the UK now reports to Parliament.

Here's the statement.

The ONS website looks much the same, though.

While we're here, let's quickly examine the report from Friday participation rates which has excited a little press comment.

It's the same one that happens every year in which the Government admits they're not going to get 50% of young people into university any time soon, and the Press and Opposition pretend that they're surprised and haven't spent a lot of time and effort trying to make sure that the target isn't met. All good slapstick fun.

Anyway, in 2006/7, we actually sent fewer young people between 18/30 to university as a proportion of the total population - 40% - than in the previous year. That will no doubt please some people, but isn't actually great news for the long-term health of the economy, as the Leitch Report made clear.

This is slightly worrying, and we cannot compete globally with a workforce that is becoming less well educated.