Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (373)

Richard Bruton

Question:

514 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Education and Science the total State expenditure on research and development and on science and technology in each year since 1997; the way in which it is distributed across the main economic sectors; and the main criteria of evaluation used for approving research programmes and the systems for ex post evaluation against critical performance indicators. [25130/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Education and Science)

My colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, has separately provided the Deputy with detail of the overall State expenditure on research and development and its distribution across the economic sectors. The programme for research in third level institutions, PRTLI, is the main vehicle for research in my Department. There have been three cycles of expenditure. The main criteria for assessment of proposals have been the strategic mission and planning of the institution, research quality, collaboration with other institutions and finally, teaching and learning quality. Each proposal is evaluated against these criteria by an independent panel of international experts.

The PRTLI was the subject of an extensive impact assessment by an international panel. Its report, which was recently published by the Higher Education Authority, concluded that it is a unique model. The report notes the success and importance of PRTLI in breaking new ground in research funding schemes, especially in its focus on strengthening the linkages between teaching and research, its emphasis on institutional prioritisation of research investments and its support for institutions working together to create a more competitive critical mass of research effort. PRTLI is recognised as an important step towards the establishment of an internationally competitive fourth level within Ireland's higher education system. This, in turn, is an important factor in laying the foundations for the new innovation economy.

Similar criteria, namely the quality of the proposal, are also used by the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology and by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences which are funded by my Department to promote individual research in the range of disciplines in these areas. At a wider level, the Deputy will be aware of proposals recently agreed by Government for the appointment of a chief science adviser as part of a new overall co-ordination and governance system for science, technology and innovation. One of the key functions of the chief science adviser, who took up the post last month, is to oversee a system of independent evaluation of science, technology and innovation policy and programmes, with particular reference to cross cutting issues.