Publication Digital Education and skills Energy Growth and productivity Health and Care Justice Machinery of government 17 January, 2024

From sidelined to systemic: The role of Whitehall's Chief Scientific Advisers

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This paper is co-authored by Professor Sir John Aston, former Home Office Chief Scientific Adviser, and James Sweetland.

Britain faces significant challenges, from climate change to novel diseases, an ageing population to mass migration. Tackling these and securing the nation's future prosperity will require ingenuity and innovation - it will require science.

Government has a vital role to play in enabling the conditions for science to flourish, but it must also place scientific approaches and expertise at the heart of its own decision making.

Departmental Chief Scientific Advisers (CSAs) are appointed to provide that scientific leadership, but their status and impact is variable across Whitehall. While some departments have well developed science systems, overseen by their CSAs, others lack this, and their CSAs operate on a more ad hoc basis. That must change.

'From sidelined to systemic' puts forward recommendations for embedding CSAs at the heart of policymaking and for ensuring departments are utilising science across their portfolios.