Retired scientist to take key post: Top job failed to attract applicants

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The Independent Online
AN INDUSTRIALIST has been brought out of retirement to fill the top job in British science and technology because the Government failed to attract other applicants.

William Waldegrave, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for Science, is expected to announce later today that he has appointed Sir John Cadogan, 63, to the new post of Director General, Research Councils. Sir John will become the most powerful scientist in Britain, effectively in charge of spending more than pounds 1.2bn of taxpayers' money on research and development.

Sir John, an industrial chemist, retired last year from the position of director of research for BP. He will decide how much money is to be spent on all aspects of civil research and development - balancing investigations of black holes and gravity waves against the discovery of genes that might cause cancer.

Although Sir John is a distinguished scientist in his own right, the failure of Mr Waldegrave's Office of Science and Technology to attract a scientist out of current employment in industry raises questions about its credibility.

Sir Mark Richmond, chairman of the Science and Engineering Research Council, yesterday complained that Mr Waldegrave's reforms of science had induced 'planning blight' which prevented researchers starting new scientific projects until the administration had been sorted out.

The reforms, which turned five research councils into six and created new salaried jobs for part-time chairmen, are expected to cost up to half a million pounds in extra administrative costs alone. The scientists have been told that the burden of this extra bureaucracy will have to be met from 'efficiency savings'.

Professor Denis Noble, from Oxford University, pointed to a speech by John Smith, the leader of the Labour Party, to the Save British Science Society where Mr Smith committed a future Labour Government to setting up a Ministry for Science. Professor Noble said: 'It makes you ask where the Office of Science and Technology is going. Even in the Government's own terms, the OST is not working.'

Mr Waldegrave's White Paper on science and technology has failed to convince his two constituencies of basic scientists within the universities and industrialists seeking to apply science for commercial benefit.