Food for Thought?: The Relations between the Royal Society Food Committees and Government, 1915-19

Annals of Science 59 (3):263-298 (2002)
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Abstract

This paper traces the relationship between the food committees of the Royal Society and government during the First World War, concentrating on the period up to the resignation of Lord Devonport as first Food Controller. It argues that, in the context of a radical public science discourse emanating from some sections of the scientific community and greatly increased contacts between scientists and government, the food scientists of the committees were moved to press for a formalization of the committees' role in food policy. The members constantly manoeuvred to achieve this aim, but also used a network of alternative channels into the heart of the policy process to get their findings translated into hard policy. In doing so, they explicitly rehearsed characteristic 'public science' arguments. In the institutional blur of wartime state-science relations, scientists often got close to the policy-making process. Post-War, the state swiftly moved to clarify the position: science was to be given more money, but was to be specifically blocked by new administrative arrangements embodied in the Haldane Report on the Machinery of Government from having any say in the core areas of general policy, the expert domain of the generalist policy-maker.

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