The Science Policy Support Group Ltd (SPSG) operated between 1986-2003. SPSG was set up by the ESRC, with the intial support of the other Research Councils, to organise programmes of research and information on issues of science and technology policy identified as of strategic importance. Its main means of operation was through research programmes, bringing together scholars from a variety of institutions and disciplines, initiailly across the UK but later at European level. By 1989 SPSG it had become a non-profit company, registered as a charity, by taking over the shell of the Technical Change Centre, an earlier cross-Council initiative. The first director of SPSG was Professor John Ziman, FRS and the programme manager Peter Healey. Peter Healey became managing director in 1993. A review in 1999 concluded that that SPSG had brought forth much of the work which underpinned the 1993 White Paper 'Realising our Potential', but in that same year, 1993, a cross Council review decided that SPSG's core funding should be withdrawn. The organisation had paid the price of pointing out the bounds of government support of science in John Ziman's 'Science in a Steady State' (later developed into the book 'Prometheus Bound'. Subsequently it was difficult to compete with similar brokerage efforts from the universities themselves and despite bring forward a good deal of new work - notably on academic-industry relations (leading to the 'Triple Helix' series of conferences), in the European Context of Science Policy programme and in the foundation of what has become the ESRC Science in Society programme - SPSG ceased trading in 2003.
This site documents some of the SPSG's past work and continuing efforts on its key themes which are being carried out under other auspices. The programmes which were approved were a fraction of those put forward. Amongst those which did not get funded, and which have some claim to have anticipated later policy issues were a number developed between 1990 and 1993 - 'The Social Regulation of Technological Innovation' - including issues of the democratisation of science - 'Issues of Social Science Funding and Policy' and a second round of our work on 'Relations between Defence and Civil Science and Technology'.
SPSG's whole rationale and method of working has involved adding value to the work of others. We thank all who have worked with us over the years - sharing much more of themselves than their intellects - to develop insightful and constructive interactions between science and technology studies and policy and management. Much of the most useful work we did - through more than 100 meetings of the Science Policy Lunch Club and through national and international conferences and workshops - depended utterly on such contributions.
Science and society relations are widely seen as being in crisis. This central SPSG programme confronts the challenge to social science to assist public policy to design and introduce a fresh set of arrangements for the management of science and technology, based upon an improved understanding of the relationship between science, democracy and social change. SPSG organised two programmes on on Public Understanding of Science (1986-92 and 1998-2000), the latter leading to what became the ESRC Science and Society Programme. The Science and Society Forum aimed to promote informed debate, hoping to establish a broadly evidence-based approach to S&T; policy and management, which recognising the problems of living with ignorance and uncertainty .
The PARIS programme - Policy Analysis and Resource Indicators in Strategy for Science, Engineering, Technology and Innovation - comprised only one project: International Social Science Comparisons (ISSC).
CREDIT was a ten country European network on issues of defence technology management, dual use and conversion which grew out of a UK research programme joint funded by the ESRC and the Ministry of Defence. , the CREDIT network was sponsored by the European Commission between 1998 - 2000 to work as a thematic network METDAC under the TSER programme (FP4).
EUROCON was an ESRC research programme which concentrated on four themes: European Regulation and the Science Base, Human Resources/Labour Market issues in European S&T;, The Evaluation of Collaboration and Networking in European S&T, and Managing Knowledge Flows for Innovation in Europe. A final synthesis report is available and a link to the programme's outputs.