Science minister issues statement on Haldane Principle…

David Willetts issued a statement on the Haldane Principle this morning, saying that … he would issue a statement on the Haldane Principle later in the year.

The Haldane Principle (broadly) states that the micromanaging of research expenditure by politicians is inefficient, and it should be up to scientists to decide how they spend their budgets. This principle inevitably clashes with politics at some point; for instance, where in the country do you decide to build a big new lab that could attract jobs and investment?

The BIS Structural Reform Plan, first issued back in June, stated that the department should “Develop a clear policy statement on the Haldane Principle to ensure that publicly funded research projects are selected through effective peer review” by October 2010.

And now the end of October has rolled in, the department has duly issued a statement calling the Principle an “important cornerstone”, which will be clarified “in a statement which will be released alongside the Science & Research Budget Allocations towards the end of this year”, after consultation with the science and research community.

From this we learn two things.

First, the science budget allocations should be complete before the end of the year.

Second, David Willetts seems more keen to make sure his department gets its statement on Haldane right, and that it consults properly with the community, than he is keen to stick to seemingly arbitrary deadlines.

I think these are both good things.

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