DExEU says it may still hire chief scientist after MPs voice fears
Brexit ministry confirms it is "currently exploring options" to bolster scientific advice available to it
The Department for Exiting the European Union may still hire a chief scientific adviser, after MPs raised concerns about the lack of specialist advice available to the new ministry.
MPs on the Science and Technology Committee last year said they were "not convinced" that the UK's science and research sectors were "at the heart of DExEU's thinking and planning for Brexit", and they urged the new ministry to recruit a chief scientific adviser "as a matter of priority".
Most government departments have their own chief scientific adviser, but ministers have given hints since the committee's report that they are likely to instead make use of the combined resources of the Government Office for Science. That prompted committee chair Stephen Metcalfe to accuse the DExEU of "resisting" hiring its own adviser.
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Sir Mark Walport, the government's top scientist, in January told the science and technology committee that DExEU was "consulting very extensively" on the likely impact of withdrawal to the science sector, but stressed that the decision over whether to appointed a dedicated adviser was for the department alone.
Responding to the committee's report on Monday, DExEU confirmed that it may still put a chief scientist in place, and said it was "continuing to work closely" with Walport "to consider how to ensure that DExEU is accessing the very best scientific expertise both within and outside government".
The department added: "There are several models for achieving this, and we must be sure we are taking into account DExEU’s role as a coordinating department.
"The department is currently exploring these options, including considering the appointment of a chief scientific adviser."
DExEU's response also sought to highlight the department's use of external scientific advice, pointing out that the ministry has been in contact with "a very wide range of universities and research institutions on the implications of EU exit".
Ministers have also, the response points out, been attending regular meetings of a new working group on EU Exit, Universities, Research and Innovation, which brings together representatives from businesses, higher education institutes, and research funding organisations.
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