Call for evidence:
The ownership and governance of NERC centres
NERC is considering the merits of establishing its research centres as independent bodies, outside of the public sector.
Council considers that this change may offer potential advantages to NERC in ensuring that it can focus on its externally facing roles as a funder and champion for the environmental sciences, and to the centres in allowing them to develop freely and in line with their overall business and science objectives. Independence of the public sector does not necessarily imply profit-making; universities, for example, are private sector bodies.
NERC therefore intends to consider the ownership and governance of four of its centres, three of which are wholly owned – the British Geological Survey (BGS), the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) - together with one that is currently operating outside NERC ownership, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS). The question for NCAS is whether to provide it with self-owning status, which is not presently the case. NERC is not considering changes to its governance of the British Antarctic Survey. The future of the National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO), which is another centre that operates outside NERC ownership, is being considered separately.
NERC appreciates that its research centres are recognised for the quality of their science and also their role in the wider national context for providing a range of 'national' or 'public' good services that benefit a range of government departments and public policy formation. NERC wishes to ensure that any changes to the present ownership and governance arrangements of its centres retain their excellence and national contribution.
In order to help understand whether the potential benefits outweigh the attendant risks, NERC is calling for evidence which will help determine, for each centre, whether these contributions might benefit from provision by a centre whose governance is independent of NERC, or whether there is a clear case for retaining the centre's NERC-owned status. We are particularly keen to receive evidence from organisations that have interactions or partnerships with the research centres and those who benefit from the research provided by the centres.
Council is open-minded at this stage as to the merits of the proposal and will be carefully considering the potential benefits on a centre by centre basis. Evidence received will be summarised for consideration by an independent, external review of this issue. The summary will be made public.
Please send written evidence to:
Head of Communications
Natural Environment Research Council
North Star Avenue
Swindon SN2 1EU
Alternatively, please send emails to NERCevidence@nerc.ac.uk.
The closing date for responses is 30 August 2013.