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Britain gets shiny new science minister

Fresh from changing the climate in Defra

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Ian Pearson has been named as the new minister in charge of science in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS).

The MP for Dudley South comes to the role from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs where he was minister of state for climate change and the environment. He replaces Malcolm Wicks who oversaw science policy for the eight months after Lord Sainsbury stepped down.

As minister of state for science and innovation, Pearson will have control of a £5bn annual budget, and responsibility for the following:

  • Business and science
  • The research base
  • The research councils
  • Innovation
  • The Technology Strategy Board
  • British National Space Centre
  • National weights and measures laboratory
  • The Design Council
  • The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, liaising with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport
  • Liaison with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
  • Energy Technologies Institute
  • Commission for Environmental Markets and Economic Performance

Enough to make anyone's head spin, right?

But he also faces a monumental task: to re-ignite an interest in science among students and the general public against a background of closing science departments, a lack of qualified teachers, falling numbers of students and courses to accommodate them, and what many consider to be a declining of the science syllabus.

New PM Gordon Brown has stressed the economic importance of science in the UK, and has promised to up the science budget to £6.3bn by 2010 as part of his drive to make sure Britain is not outpaced by the developing world.

According to his voting record on TheyWorkForYou, Pearson is an occasional rebel, defying his party line on critical issues such as the smoking ban. He liked the Iraq war, doesn't want an investigation into how it all started, and is very much in favour of ID cards.

Pearson himself has yet to issue a statement on his appointment. We have no doubt he is delighted, and looking forward to the challenge ahead. ®

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