The Government Office for Science (GO Science) has issued a report of its first ever review of GCHQ's science and technology (S&T). The review was part of a rolling programme to assess the quality, management and use of science by Government departments. It was conducted by staff from GO Science overseen by a panel of experts from academia, industry, Government departments and agencies. The aims were to consider the practical use of science within GCHQ, the standard of work undertaken and the ability of those involved in its application.
As an organisation dependent on S&T, GCHQ welcomed the opportunity to be independently and comprehensively assessed and assisted the process by facilitating access. The review covered all major areas of S&T within GCHQ, including several research projects, which were examined in detail. The GO Science team also reviewed newer initiatives aimed at continuing to improve GCHQ's S&T capability.
The report highlights excellent scientific practice within GCHQ, including relevance to the Department's mission and the exceptional quality of S&T staff. GCHQ's 'horizon scanning' process is also identified as 'impressive'. Such foresight activities are particularly important for GCHQ in order to keep pace with rapidly evolving technology.
The report gives welcome support to some existing initiatives, including an Innovation Programme and other activities to engender greater collaboration across Government, industry and academia. It also reinforces the message from the 2009 GCHQ baseline Capability Review that GCHQ performs well at managing large complex projects and programmes.
The report also provides guidance on where GCHQ can do more. Many of the recommendations give weight to activities already under consideration, for example, on the external expertise recommendations: GCHQ is already investigating how to work more closely with academia and how to benefit from the development and use of open source software.
A spokesperson for GCHQ said: "GCHQ focuses on continuously improving its S&T. Having the opportunity to be placed under external examination and given feedback on our strengths as well as areas for improvement has been a very valuable exercise".
Notes for Editors:
1. Iain Lobban, Director GCHQ, was recently featured in a list in the Times Eureka Magazine of 100 figures in British science and engineering (7 October 2010). The list aimed to identify those people who are "pushing back the boundaries of scientific understanding, transforming our lives through innovation and changing our attitudes to science, each other and the world" wrote The Times Editor, James Harding. It covered researchers, inventors, engineers, communicators, policymakers and practitioners. Iain Lobban was listed as number 12 and was included as the leader of an organisation vital to our national security and that employs first-rate mathematicians, linguists, cryptographers and computer scientists:
2. In 2003, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor initiated a programme of Science Reviews to help departments to learn the lessons of the past, identify and encourage good practice, highlight possible areas of improvement, and support the introduction of these changes. In 2008, the review programme itself was evaluated and revised. The revised Science and Engineering Assurance programme is now equally rigorous, but is quicker and more collaborative. The new 'lighter touch' style is being applied to all major science using government departments, with completion of the programme due in 2011.
4. GCHQ baseline Capability Review is at the following link:
01242 221491 Ext 33847
28 January 2011