The role of the Chief Scientific Adviser has no mention of science policy and is potentially under-resourced as revealed by Freedom of Information documents accessed by Science Calling.
The director general of the government’s science funding agency, Science Foundation Ireland, was appointed the role of CSA late last year. According to a letter to Minister Richard Bruton accessed under Freedom of Information (FOI), SFI was operating at five posts below its approved ECF number of 52.5 last October.
Prof Mark Ferguson did not receive additional pay or resources when taking on the duties of the CSA. Though supporting the role, the letter cited a number of additional responsibilities that are to be absorbed in the coming months by the SFI staff.
Chairperson of SFI, Prof Patrick Fottrell writes that “the Board expressed the strong view that the Foundation must be facilitated in operating at its full, approved ECF staff complement”.
FOI documents also reveal that policy is not mentioned in the duties of the CSA. Some of these duties are mentioned on the CSA’s new website. In an interview with ScienceCalling, Minister Seán Sherlock said the CSA has nothing to do with Government policy but the Government “can seek advice from the Chief Scientific Adviser, as needs be, on any issue”.
All mention of science policy was removed from the website of the Chief Scientific Adviser in an update this morning. The following sentence was taken down:
The Office of the Chief Scientific Adviser was established in 2004 to provide the Government with independent, expert advice on issues related to public science policy
Since this was on main text on the homepage of the website, it is understandable that most people’s interpretation is that the CSA’s job is intrinsically related to science policy.
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Images: By Science Calling with FOI symbol from foi.gov.ie / Science Foundation Ireland via Flickr [Photo of Minister Seán Sherlock, Minister Richard Bruton and Prof Mark Ferguson from December 2013 added retrospectively during website upgrade]