To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services, pursuant to the answer of 16 March, Official Report, column 613, what is his definition of the phrase "scientific merit" as a criterion for assessing projects for research funding by his Department.
The scientific merit of proposals submitted to the Department is determined through critical review and assessment of the objectives and methods proposed for each study. The costs and resources proposed for the study are also taken into account.The research objectives are reviewed to ensure that the scope, nature and purpose of the work is clearly described, that the work envisaged will make a contribution to existing knowledge or theory and not simply replicate existing data, and that the anticipated results hold promise of exploitation and applicability. The policy relevance of the research objectives is also assessed. The plan of research is reviewed to ensure that it is appropriate and relevant to the subject area of the study and most important that the research objectives are likely to be achieved by the methods proposed, although by the very nature of research this cannot be guaranteed.