In the newly formed Cameron-Clegg coalition government, the U.K. science ministerial responsibilities will be held by a Conservative. David Willetts, who had served as Shadow Minister for Universities since 2005, has responsibility for both higher education and science as Minister of State (Universities and Science) within the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. The new Minister for that Department is Vincent Cable, a member of the Liberal Democrats, and that party’s chief economic spokesman for several years. Cable is part of the formal Cabinet, but Willetts will attend Cabinet meetings as well.
At the moment, no formal opposition, or shadow cabinet, has been formed by the Labour party. As the Science Minister in that government, Lord Drayson was made a working peer, and will remain in Parliament as a member of the House of Lords. He did not stand for election last week as he was not a member of the House of Commons. I have no indication who will serve as the science spokesman for the Liberal Democrats party, as Dr. Evan Harris lost his seat in the election.
Willetts is on record as promising the Conservatives would delay the scheduled 2013 implementation of the Research Excellence Framework, the new research assessment exercise that would make greater use of impact measurements in the allocation of research funds. It’s unclear whether as a matter of priority or of compromise between coalition partners if this will remain a priority. As Willetts will have responsibility for both universities and science, it seems likely this will remain of concern to him. Whether it will warrant attention from the rest of the new government in light of its pending economic struggles and its efforts to reform Parliament and elections is uncertain.