Alas poor DIUS, we hardly knew you. Born just 2 years ago, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is no longer. Rumors had been flying of its demise today—DIUS head John Denham was shifted to a new position as Gordon Brown’s ministers continue to resign in response to an expenses scandal rocking the U.K. government—and Number 10 Downing Street has just made it official.
U.K. researchers will care about this political reshuffle more than most because DIUS had science funding under its care. That will now be handled by yet another newly created entity, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is formed by merging DIUS and the Depart for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. To most, it looks like a return to the pre-2007 setup despite the new department's name. The Times laments the £7 million wasted on all that fancy DIUS stationary and other paraphernalia, but scientists will have to wait a bit longer to learn what it all means and whether the new arrangement will increase the pressure to make their research economically relevant. Nick Dusic of the Campaign for Science & Engineering has already sent out a statement warning that DBIS must preserve research fund: “The department has a wide remit so it is more critical than ever that the science budget is ring-fenced so that is protected from spending problems in other areas.”
Of course, who hands out science funding could quickly change again if the United Kingdom dumps Brown’s Labour party in a general election that may come soon. Don't order that DBIS stationary just yet.