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Monday, 27 August, 2001, 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK
Executive makes science centre-stage
Lab testing
Seventy-five projects are to benefit
An independent group of experts is to shape future Scottish policy on science.

The announcement came as the Scottish Executive revealed details on how a 75m funding package for science will be spent.

The creation of a science steering group forms the centrepiece of Scotland's first science strategy launched on Monday by Enterprise Minister Wendy Alexander.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh, the country's main learned society, will oversee the Scottish Science Advisory Committee.

Wendy Alexander
Wendy Alexander: Investment is essential
It is intended to be a high-powered group to identify priorities, overseas' policy in science and technology and advise ministers on scientific issues.

The group's remit was agreed in talks between the executive, which will fund its work, and William Stewart, the president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Another plank of the strategy is a plan to put in place research fellowships to enable bright young scientists to see ideas through from the test tube to full development.

The 75m funding boost was announced earlier this year, but Ms Alexander, on Monday, spelled out how the money would be used.

Edinburgh University will receive the lion's share of the cash, with a grant worth 22.5m.

It will be spent on projects including a new biomedical centre and a virtual science facility.

Glasgow University is being given funding for a centre for research into heart disease, and at Dundee University, a new unit will be set up to look into diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's.

The strategy was launched at the Glasgow Science Centre by Ms Alexander.

Science centre interior
The announcement was made at the Science Centre

She warned: "Government must become smarter - in the support it gives to science, the use it makes of science, and the way it explains the issues.

"A science strategy for Scotland marks the start of a more joined up approach to policy and investment decisions from the laboratory to business."

She added: "Our universities and research institutes are Scotland's 'investment banks' for our future success.

"The work being done by our research community today will generate tomorrow's prosperity."

She welcomed the introduction of Enterprise Fellowships by Scottish Enterprise and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, as a way of assisting gifted young scientists.

And Ms Alexander said the involvement of the Royal Society would give the new advisory committee an independent voice and would offer an "unprecedented form of partnership between government and the scientific community".

The science strategy has identified five objectives for the executive:

  • Maintaining a strong science base

  • Increasing the exploitation of scientific research

  • Ensuring enough people study science to meet future needs of the country

  • Promoting an awareness and understanding of science

  • Ensuring an effective use of scientific evidence in policy-making and spending decisions by government

Some parts of the executive already have their own strategies for science, as in agriculture and biological research, but the new strategy is said to be the first integrated strategy for Scotland.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh, independent and non-political, is seen as Scotland's "national academy".

It dates back to 1783, when it was founded for "the advancement of learning and useful knowledge".

President, Sir William Stewart, a former UK chief scientific advisor welcomed the new strategy and the creation of the new body.

"We live in a changing world and a world that is becoming increasingly dominated, whether we like it or not, by the products and processes of science, engineering and technology," he said.

BBC Scotland's Alan Mackay reports
"What ministers have now ordered is a more joined-up approach to science"
See also:

08 Dec 00 | Scotland
Digital boost for medical research
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