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04 February 2011
Greater collaboration, attracting new resources into Wales, and more boasting about Wales’ science successes. These were just some of the messages from Wales’ Chief Scientific Adviser during a public lecture at the University about the future of science in Wales.
After only nine months in the job, the Adviser to the Welsh Assembly Government, Professor John Harries has laid down his hopes and aspirations for the future of science in Wales to an audience of academics, students and members of the public.
Professor Harries, who is also Professor of Earth Observation at Imperial College London, described how, since taking up the role, he has been able to see first hand many areas of excellence and strength in science and engineering across Wales – some of which is truly "world-class". He also said he’d been impressed by the enthusiasm, ideas and initiatives that abounded across Wales, maintaining that the country possessed good science and technology foundations on which to build.
Reiterating how this area will be vital in developing and building the future research and development, economy and prosperity of Wales, he described how it supports the Welsh Assembly’s Economic Renewal Programme, and touched upon the role of the Science Advisory Council for Wales.
He also talked about how the Council had already begun the task of identifying the ‘grand challenges’ of Welsh science which would help build on existing strengths in the areas of health and life sciences, environment and low carbon, advanced engineering and materials.
He did, however, maintain that there are also many challenges ahead. Posing questions to the audience he explained how it is necessary to find ways to raise the standards of R&D in science, technology, engineering and maths; how to improve educational outreach activities to encourage more people of all ages to engage in science and engineering; and find new ways to improve collaborations within and without Wales.
Before embarking on the lively questions and answers session, Professor Harries explained what he felt was needed in order for Wales to secure a world-class science and engineering sector. Among them was the need to focus limited resources and efforts in carefully selected areas. He also believed the way forward was to link world-class, excellent science with innovation and enterprise and develop excellence in all three aspects in a way that was aimed at supporting Welsh economic renewal.
Other key success factors included the ability to encourage collaboration and links in Wales, the UK, and Europe; to bring new resources into Wales from UK, Europe and beyond that would expand the knowledge economy; to find more ways to raise the profile of science and engineering and encourage STEM careers among young people; and to increase public confidence in science and engineering.
The Future of Science in Wales lecture was supported by Cardiff University and the South Wales branch of the British Science Association, with the help of the University’s Community Engagement Team.
In November 2010, four University academics were appointed to the new Science Advisory Council for Wales. The Council is an independent group, advising the Assembly Government through the Chief Scientific Adviser, on the full range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics issues. They will also look at how science is used to help Welsh economic and social progress.
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