Science and technology in the service of the State: Understanding mission-oriented research systems in a changing world

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Manchester Business School

Abstract

Mission-oriented science and technology - that is Government funded science and technology in direct support of the goals or missions of the state - has a long history and accounts for a great deal of public spending on S&T. Each mission area (e.g. in defence, health or agriculture policy) has its own distinctive system of actors and organizations. However, mission-oriented research has tended to be overlooked by academic analysts of science and technology policy. Yet these systems are significant features of both the wider research and innovation systems and of public policy systems, and are thought to be facing profound challenges stemming from changes in public policy missions (including the emergence of significant global challenges), from financial and political pressures on the organization of government activities, from shifts in the way scientific knowledge is produced and the global distribution of scientific expertise, and from the globalization of technology and innovation. And in the current context of budgetary declines and fiscal austerity, there may be particular tensions between the need to meet short term pressures and needs, deal with longer-term problems and at the same time ensure that the right balance of knowledge and expertise is maintained to meet future, as yet unknown, challenges.
Our research aims to better understand how these mission-oriented research systems work and how they are changing in response to these challenges. In doing so, we will contribute to academic understanding of mission-oriented science and technology policy and the growing academic debate on the future of mission-oriented science and technology policy. But we also aim to inform policy and practice in the field of mission-oriented science and technology policy, and improve the level of debate amongst stakeholders in the UK and beyond.
Specifically, through our research we aim to:
1. Characterise and so better understand the different kinds of mission-oriented research systems and their distinguishing features;
2. Understand in detail selected mission-oriented research systems and how they have evolved in recent years;
3. Examine how actors in and stakeholders of those systems perceive the challenges and opportunities facing them, allowing us to identify challenges that may be common to all mission-oriented systems and challenges that are unique to specific systems;
4. Assess how the selected mission-oriented research systems are responding to the challenges;
5. Identify the opportunities for and threats to mission-oriented research systems, distinguishing between any generic implications for mission-oriented science and technology systems as a whole and any specific implications for defence and security-related mission-oriented research systems.

Planned Impact

We will seek to inform policy and practice in the field of mission-oriented science and technology policy. Beneficiaries of the research will include policy makers and decision makers in central government departments (MOD, DEFRA, BIS and more widely); those responsible for commissioning policy-oriented research (DSTL Programme Office; DEFRA; and DEFRA agencies), those responsible for managing research programmes (in DSTL, DEFRA and DEFRA agencies); research performing organisations within government (DSTL; DEFRA research agencies and others); and outside government (universities, large firms like BAE Systems, small firms and private research organisations); and other stakeholders (e.g. the Royal Society, Institute of Physics).

The research outputs will benefit defence/national security by helping UK defence and security to better harness possible science and technology opportunities through the more agile and flexible creation and adoption of new science and technological knowledge not least from non-traditional sources. The research will do so by promoting a better understanding of the organisations, institutions and relationships that constitute MORS, the dynamics affecting those systems and the opportunities and threats to UK defence and security posed by their responses.

The research will help UK government address the recommendations of the Blackett Review by contributing to policy makers' understanding of the current system and the opportunities and barriers to the engagement of "non-traditional" sources of expertise, not least universities.

The research will also provide an opportunity for learning across government through our cross-case comparison of policy and practice in MOD and DEFRA.

All actors will benefit from a systematic understanding as to the way missions are actually translated into structures and budgets for research and the knowledge and use of knowledge, and how existing systems are responding to new challenges and opportunities. Importantly, by bringing together stakeholders around our concepts and findings, we will not only "inform" them, but create a stakeholder discourse that will contribute to a mutual understanding and joint learning between those stakeholders.

Publications

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Flanagan, K. Science and technology in the service of the State: the example of Public Sector Research Establishments in EU-SPRI Forum Conference, new forms of collaboration in policy design, implementation and evaluation, Madrid, 10 -12 April 2013.

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Flanagan, K. Mission-Oriented Science and Technology Systems: an overview in Science and Technology in the Service of the State, Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, October 9-10th 2014.

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Rigby, J. Casting a net widely: insights into mission-oriented research at the UK's Department for Food and Rural Affairs & the Ministry of Defence through funding acknowledgement data - a comparative study in Science and Technology in the Service of the State, Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, October 9-10th 2014

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Yeow, J. Advice about advice? The Defra and MoD Science Advisory Councils in Science and Technology in the Service of the State, Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, October 9-10th 2014.

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Yeow, J. Science Advisory Councils in EU-SPRI Forum Conference, Manchester, June 2014.

 
Description 1. We have used soft systemic thinking as a conceptual lens through which to examine the sources of scientific and technological advice to policy makers in two UK government departments (the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs). We argue that this systemic thinking makes a distinctive contribution to the understanding of this topic since it emphasises the interconnectedness of actors in the delivery of S&T advice to policy makers, the importance of the relationships between actors, the influence of the institutional settings for those relationships as well as the boundaries around actors. This is important since it emphasises that change in one actor (through cutting budgets, privatisation of advisory activities or change in strategy) can have perturbations across the whole system.

2. We have developed an analytical model to explore why and how academic engagement in the science and technology (S&T) policy process happens. We address motivational and capability factors of academics and academic organisations, and demand factors from policymakers and government bodies. We also explore several policy and practice pressures that may cause a dynamically changing balance of motivation, capability and demand factors over time.

3. We have used newly available bibliometric data from the Web of Knowledge to explore the relationship between UK government departments ( the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Department for Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)) and the process of generating high impact science. Our aim has been to to begin to understand important features in the landscape of scientific funding of research involving government by examining where research is being carried out and by whom, the extent of simultaneous funding by other funding bodies, the topics of research which are chosen and the character of the knowledge generated in terms of disciplinarity and collaboration. We observe that much policy relevant research in which DEFRA is acknowledged is highly international in terms of the collaborations that undertake it. Publicly acknowledged MOD research, while less international in terms of performance and simultaneous funding, is also highly international.
Exploitation Route Our findings have direct implications for policy makers in central government who are facing increasing pressures for 'open' policy-making (GO Science, 2013) and post-recession budgetary austerity in the UK is leading to an apparent desire to satisfy a greater proportion of the scientific advice used by government via external sources. This has implications for the sources of scientific advice used in government and especially the ways that they engage with external sources of scientific advice in universities and elsewhere.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description The findings have been used by policy makers and public sector organisations including the Ministry of Defence (MOD), MOD defence science & Technology Laboratory and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Treasury.
First Year Of Impact 2004
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description BBC interview 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discussion about the project with with BBC Science Correspondent Pallab Ghosh, 13 October 2014.

Increased awareness of the project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Contribution to MOD S&T review 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact As a result of our presentation, we wre asked to provide a written input ito a review of MOD S&T

Request for similar inputs on other aspects of the review
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description DSAC Chairman briefing 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Briefing of Chairman of Defence Scientific Advisory Council (DSAC) has led to further requests for information and advice from the study team

Brieifing led to requests for further information from officials
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description DSTL briefing 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Meeting with senior DSTL official to discuss governance models for public sector research establishments (PSREs)

Shared research on MOD/Defra comparative study
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description House of Lords Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Meeting with Clrek to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Kath Bainbridge to discuss a possible inquiry into PSREs and government science

Discussions still ongoing
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Input to MOD study 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact At the suggestion of the Minsitry of Defence (MOD), a consultancy (RAND Europe) requested a briefing on our research findings. This contributed to a report to the Ministry of Defence Chief Scientific Advisor

The briefing contributed to a report to the Ministry of Defence Chief Scientific Advisor
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Labour Party Conference Round-table 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Participation in invitation-only roundtable discussion on science and innovation policy with shadow Science and Universities Minister, MPs and others organised by the Royal Society and the other national academies at the Labour Party Conference, 23 September 2014.

Increased awareness of issues on science and innovation policy
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description NITEworks briefing 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact We briefed NITEworks (an MOD, DSTL, industry organisation) on academic-policy maker engagement models

The briefing led to further inputs as part of a NITEworks study for central government
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Project Advisory Board (March 2014) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact First meeting of our Project Advisory Board comprising officials from Ministry of Defence, Defence Science & Technology Laboratory, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, Government Office of Science and Institute for Government led to discussion on potential pathways to impact within central government.

Heightened engagement and awareness of the research activity amongst central government departments
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Project advisory board (July 2014) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Presentations to Project Advisory Board comprising officials from Ministry of Defence, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Department of Business Innovation & Skills and Government Office of Science led to further discussion, suggestions for dissemination of findings/engagement within central government and insights into relevance of the research for policy makers

The Project Advisory Board led to requests for further briefings from officials from Ministry of Defence, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Department of Business Innovation & Skills and Government Office of Science
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Social Science in Tree Health Workshop (Fera) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Talked to key stakeholders in Tree Health policy area to understand role of social science in Defra/Fera, and introduced ESRC project to them.

Agreed further access to department officials for project data collection.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014