Call for a Northern Ireland Chief Scientific Adviser as All Party Group on Science and Technology launches

23 February 2012

The Royal Society of Chemistry said the need for a Chief Scientific Adviser at Stormont is "a no brainer", as the All Party Group (APG) on science and technology launched this week.

Almost a dozen members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, led by Basil McCrea MLA, attended the first APG on Science and Technology this week. They discussed ideas for upcoming meetings and debates including Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education, how STEM can stimulate growth, the possible appointment of a Chief Scientific Adviser to Northern Ireland and scientific topics such as fracking, neurodegenerative diseases and agricultural productivity.

"Stormont should match other devolved administrations in having its own chief scientific adviser," said Clare Viney, RSC director of communications, at the launch on Monday. "It's a no brainer."

Basil McCrea said there was "a very impressive group of people" attending across the scientific spectrum. "Top of the agenda is the feeling that we do need a chief scientific adviser, much as we have a chief medical officer and a chief legal officer," he told the BBC, "because so much of what government does these days is a dispute between differing arguments and the government does need to be able to work out in a very timely and quick manner what has to be done; and you need to have built up a body of trust and body of information and someone that you think is competent who can give you advice in a very quick timescale."

Dr Dermot Hanna and Dr Tony Byrne, secretary and chair respectively of the RSC Northern Ireland section, have worked very hard over the last two years to ensure that the meeting was a success. With the recent appointment of an educational regional Co-ordinator who will be based in Belfast we are looking at how we can utilise the staff and members we have to in Northern Ireland to promote the chemical sciences and the RSC.

"The NI Local Section of the RSC is delighted at the formation of the All Party Group on Science and Technology and are particularly pleased at the strong support from MLAs of all parties in the NI Assembly," Dr Hanna said. "We see it as a vital tool for raising awareness among MLAs of important developments in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, both technological and educational and how policy issues impact upon these areas. 

"The APG will achieve this by holding focused meetings, with debates opened by guest speakers who are active in the fields of interest."

Notes for editors:

. A professional bodies' forum has also been established to support the APG. Bodies represented are: Royal Society of Chemistry, Society of Biology, Institute of Physics, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Northern Ireland,  Campaign for Science & Engineering, Institution of Civil Engineers, Institute of Materials, The Association for Science Education, Northern Ireland Region, The British Psychological Society, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Institution of Engineering and Technology, Energy Institute, Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineering, Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA), Institute of Food Science & Technology.

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