prospect by lanyuehua



Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you. I hope the following comments relating to criterion 10 are
useful and not too late.

Defra needs to be clear what scientific expertise it wants and how it will use it. At present Defra does not
know who its scientists are or how it can actively engage them. Most scientists are in the agencies and
many do not consider themselves as 'Defra scientists'. The Head of Science Profession project will help
this, but it is hindered by the ongoing laboratories agency review, and the failure of the department to
implement key points of previous reviews. Previous reviews recommended providing long-term funding
forecasts to enable the agency to carry out long-term planning which is difficult when you are not sure of
your funding. The current review is considering governance of the agencies: these agencies are key parts
of Defra's scientific capacity and should be part of the civil service and adequately funded.

The ongoing differential in pay between the core-department and the agencies further erodes the ability of
agencies to maintain capacity in staff and distances agency staff from the aims of the department. This
affects the ability of these agencies to retain staff and attract colleagues from the core-department; this may
become more prominent when Professional Skills for Government is implemented.

It is also becoming clear that Defra is keen on monitoring and managing the business / strategic side of its
agencies (where most science is conducted), yet it is not keen on co-ordinating the overall work or
understanding and sharing of best practice between its agencies, and the wider scientific community it uses.
This makes it difficult for duplications of effort or gaps in capacity to be identified or areas where
collaboration can happen. What happens tends to occur through chance or personal/long-established links.
As an example, work on European PHARE projects is poorly co-ordinated across the department and
discrete groups work on areas alone or collaborate through established links. These projects offer/ed huge
opportunities to organisations and staff alike to establish links with other European countries and Defra
should take the lead in encouraging increasingly separate and discrete areas of the department to work

Sue Ferns
Head of Research and Specialist Services
75-79 York Road
London SE1 7AQ

Tel: 020 7902 6639
Fax: 020 7902 6637

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