Since 2002 the Government have set out a series of policy commitments and provided funding to realise the recommendations of Sir Gareth Robert's report ‘SET for Success’.
The 10-year science and innovation investment framework emphasised the importance of science, engineering and technology (SET) skills for the future of the UK. This was reinforced by the further programme of commitments in the March 2006 science and innovation investment framework next steps.
Research Councils are implementing those recommendations in the Roberts report on improving the attractiveness of postgraduate study and careers in higher education. For example, the minimum PhD stipend was raised to £12,000 in the academic year 2005 and to £12,300 in 2006, and has been increased since in line with the GDP deflator; a study has been undertaken to assess the impact of enhanced stipends and salaries on the recruitment and retention of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers in key shortage areas; mechanisms have been put in place to support PhDs of longer duration than three years; funding for nearly 800 academic fellowships has been awarded to 79 universities throughout the UK; research councils are working with the higher education sector to enhance personal and professional skills development for research staff based on research grants; and, the concordat for contract workers is also being reviewed.
In addition to this, initiatives to secure a firm and sustainable pool of qualified people in science have included SETNET (the science, engineering, technology and mathematics network) and the science and engineering ambassadors (SEAs)programme with currently over 13,000 SEAs enthusing young people about science which will increase to 18,000 by March 2008. The UK Resource Centre for Women in SET has been set up and is working with over 70 employers to increase numbers of women in SET, and 38 schools are currently participating in an initiative run by SETNET to increase the participation of ethnic minority school children in science.