Research into Research
The Reports of the Select Committee on Estimates are far more interesting to the general public than their general title would seem to imply, and the latest, which concerns expenditure on research and development, contains even more vital information and sympathetic appraisal than is usually thrown up during these periodic excursions of the nation's financial bloodhounds. The compact description of the main official agencies and channels for research would be enough to make this a document of permanent value, and the very mention of the projects in hand should help to whet the public appetite for more knowledge—an appetite which the Committee quite rightly says should be satisfied to the fullest possible extent by official state- ments in a non-technical and readable form. The American presen- tation of the basic facts concerning atomic energy provides a splendid example in this field, and it may be this example which makes the short report on British research and development in atomic energy, which is published in an appendix to the main report, rather unim- pressive reading. But there is also the concrete fact that the Com- mittee found progress with the Harwell station so unsatisfactory as to call for an independent enquiry. It is a matter for some astonish- ment that in this of all matters there should have been delay— the more so since, judging from the very restrained and fair comment of the Committee, some of it was avoidable. Fairness and enlighten- ment are characteristic of the whole report, and the,Committee's re- marks on the need for flexibility in financial control and for freeing responsible officers from harassing external control will warm the heart of every conscientious research worker. Readers of the Report will echo its authors' reasonable blessing on enquiries into the be- haviour of airframes at supersonic speeds, pneumoconiosis, home- grown flax, money-saving devices in the Post Office and even guided missiles. The field is wide and the outlook must be wide too.