Government needs to place a greater emphasis on science

As Fianna Fáil Science spokesperson I am calling for the establishment of a dedicated stand-alone office with responsibility for advising the Government on scientific and research issues. The Office of Chief Scientific Adviser was established in 2004 but was subsequently abolished by the Fine Gael led Government in 2012.

The Office of Chief Scientific Adviser was established to provide expert advice on matters of science policy. The Office played an important role in ensuring that a whole-of-Government approach was taken in relation to science policy. The Office also identified investment opportunities in the research, development and the science sectors.

The decision by the then Fine Gael Government to abolish the office in 2012 was a short-sighted move. It potentially created a conflict of interest in terms of the agency and the advisory roles as all responsibility now solely rests with Science Foundation Ireland. It also demonstrates how Fine Gael simply doesn’t treat the science community with the respect and recognition that it deserves.

A greater emphasis on scientific policy making and evidence based policy approaches was one of the themes articulated on the recent “science march” in Dublin, in which I participated, along with hundreds of people from the academic, research and innovative sectors.  At a time when the international climate is uncertain with scientists being dropped from the Trump White House and U.K. Researchers considered relocating post-Brexit, it is imperative the government make a strong signal of the value placed on this endeavour.

Re-constituting the Office of Chief Scientific Advisor, as was previously there under Fianna Fáil Governments, would send the right message on research and development at the right time. The sector needs a whole of Government approach and the creation of a standalone office will help achieve this.

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