BGS undertakes a range of national good activities on behalf of Government. A Government Advisory Panel (GAP) was set up in 2009 through which senior representatives of the main government departments were able to comment and advise BGS on the appropriateness, efficacy and value-for-money of these national good activities.
Four meetings of the panel were held between June 2009 and November 2010. The GAP was useful in bringing together departmental Chief Scientific Advisers, but following discussion with officials in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in autumn 2011, it was agreed that a different approach to engaging with policy makers was needed, so it was decided to end the GAP and instead focus on BGS securing individual meetings with key officials in the relevant departments.
Historical information on the composition of the GAP, and summaries of its meetings, is shown below.
The Panel was chaired by the Head of the Research Councils Unit at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and comprised:
The Panel met in London on 12 June 2009. It discussed and generally endorsed the Survey's new strategy, noting the emphasis on 3D models of priority areas important for energy, resources and environmental change.
Important areas of work expected of BGS include advice on carbon sequestration, radioactive waste disposal, sea bed mapping and characterization, hydrocarbons advice, supplies of important minerals, the identification of environmentally vulnerable sites and support for overseas development, especially in Africa.
Government is particularly looking to the BGS to provide advice that reduces risk in major publicly-funded projects, such as planning for the Severn Barrage, offshore wind generation construction and future land use. BGS was asked to produce some case studies to illustrate where it had done such work in the past.
The Panel met in London on 3 November 2009. Discussion centred on the role of the BGS in providing advice to both central government and other stakeholders. The Panel agreed that there is a clear need for the BGS to provide government with high quality, impartial scientific advice, but that such advice should avoid any statements about current government policy. Panel members also felt it important for the public perception of the BGS to be one of independence in the advice it offers government.
The Panel also discussed the development of the BGS Environmental Modelling Platform. This will provide ready access to data and knowledge as well as geospatial, conceptual, and numerical models through a subsurface management system akin to Geographic Information Systems in use today. It was considered important for the BGS to set up a stakeholder panel to advise on this.
More information about the Environmental Modelling Platform can be found in the BGS Science Strategy 2009–2014.
The third meeting was held on 26 April 2010 in London. The majority of the discussion again focused on central government requirements of the BGS in the context of the delivery of the BGS Strategy, and how the science priorities, which BGS will focus on to 2014, could support achievement of the government’s policy objectives.
Discussion was thorough and positive, with Panel members highlighting areas where BGS advice will be invaluable to government and its executive agencies, e.g. flood modelling, climate change impacts and mitigation, sea bed mapping for marine spatial planning and conservation zones, and strategic advice on unforeseen events such as the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland.
The Panel agreed that the overriding requirement from government is for BGS to have a central role in assessment of the risks involved in major national infrastructure initiatives, especially civil engineering projects. The BGS needs to be involved at the earliest stage in such projects. Further discussions will take place about how to formally ensure that government departments’ planning processes for major national infrastructure projects seek BGS advice at the appropriate stage.
The fourth GAP meeting was held in London on 5 November 2010. Discussion centred on the outcome of the government’s recent Comprehensive Spending Review, and what this may mean for the BGS Science programme. Overall, it was too early to say with any certainty what the final BGS budget settlement — and its impact on the BGS’s future work programme and priorities — will be. The situation should become clearer early in 2011.
The panel also discussed relationships and joint working between BGS and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). BGS and DECC are working together on some important issues, such as the transfer of the core samples in the BGS Gilmerton facility in Edinburgh to the new BGS core store in Keyworth, and the recent assessment of the high-level geological unsuitability of parts of west Cumbria for the underground storage of higher activity radioactive waste (see Initial geological unsuitability screening of west Cumbria ).
GAP members also received an update on the work BGS is engaged in with the national Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) centres in England (the NCCCS — in partnership with the University of Nottingham) and Scotland (SCCS).