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A report of a Joint Working Group on Computers for Research
1. On the 21st December, Mrs. Shirley Williams, M.P., asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science in the House of Commons:- Whether he has received the report of the Flowers Committee on the Computer requirements of Universities and Research Councils, and if he will make a statement.
2. The Secretary of State for Education and Science, the Rt. Hon. Anthony Crosland, M.P., replied:-
- "Following the statement of my Rt. Hon. Friend, the Minister of Technology, in the House on 1st March about the Computer industry, I invited the Council for Scientific Policy and the University Grants Committee to set up a Working Group to undertake a full-scale review of the computer requirements of Universities and Research Councils, which would lead to a new five year programme of procurement. The Working Group met under the Chairmanship of Professor Flowers of Manchester University. It reported in July, and the Report was submitted to me by the Council and the University Grants Committee.
- The proposals of the Working Group are designed to meet the growing need for digital computing facilities for research. The group recommend that there should be regional computing centres at the Universities of London, Manchester and Edinburgh with very large computers to which research workers from other Universities and research institutions would have access. They recommend better computing facilities for individual Universities and research establishments which would be compatible with the proposed regional computers. The system would thus form an integrated whole.
- At present prices, the cost of implementing the Working Group's proposals for new machines, equipment, buildings, and extra operating costs would be £20.5 million for Universities and £9.3 million for Research Councils in a period of five years. This compares with an average rate of approved orders for computers for Universities, over the last three years, of under £0.5 million per annum; last year it was £1.2 million.
- The Government has given general approval to the Flowers Committee's programme for new University computers, equipment, building and operating costs. Because of the economic situation, and the need to fit the expenditure into the National Plan, it is proposed to implement the programme over six years instead of five. In the first three years, expenditure will be at the rate of about £3 million a year. Orders are being placed as soon as possible. Most of the Flowers Committee's recommendations for Research Councils have high priority within the programmes of the councils.
- In accordance with the views expressed by the Flowers Committee, I propose to set up, in consultation with the University Grants Committee and the Council for Scientific Policy, a Computer Board. This will keep the programme under review and be responsible for ensuring the full utilisation of the facilities provided in both the centres and the Universities generally.
- The programme forms part of the plan announced by the Minister of Technology for developing the use of computers as an instrument of modernisation and of economic advance. The success of this plan calls for a more widespread use of computers in Universities so that many more graduates become aware of the capabilities of computers and are trained in their use.
- I should like, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, to take this opportunity of thanking Professor Flowers and the other members of the Working Group for the valuable work they have done in preparing this Report."
3. The programme will be implemented during a period of potentially rapid technical progress, and it may be desirable in the light of experience to depart from specific recommendations of equipment for particular institutions. In considering proposals in the Report for equipment not of British manufacture, the availability of comparable British equipment and the balance of payments position, amongst other factors, will be borne in mind.
4. In addition to this published Report, Professor Flowers' Working Group presented a short Report, not reproduced here, dealing with certain matters of financial and commercial confidence.
Note to Paragraph 2(iii):- These sums differ slightly from those given in paragraph 3 11 of the Report, because they do not include certain items which, if approved, would not be within the responsibilities of the Department of Education and Science, and also exclude provision for technical colleges. Computers for teaching hospitals are not included in these figures. A sum for minor items already approved by the University Grants Committee at two Universities (paragraph 233) has been added.
COUNCIL FOR SCIENTIFIC POLICY UNIVERSITY GRANTS COMMITTEE
JOINT WORKING GROUP ON COMPUTERS FOR RESEARCH
Terms of Reference
To assess the probable computer needs during the next five years of users in Universities and civil research establishments receiving support from Government funds.
Professor B. H. FLOWERS, F.R.S. (Chairman)
Langworthy Professor of Physics, University of Manchester
Professor G. BLACK
Professor of Automatic Data Processing, Manchester College of Science and Technology, Manager of Central Technical Services at the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, Risley, and Director-Designate of the National Computing Centre
Dr. R. F. CHURCHOUSE
Head of Programming Group, Atlas Computer Laboratory, Science Research Council, Chilton, Berks.
Dr. B. COLLINGE
Reader in Physics, University of Liverpool
Dr. K. V. ROBERTS
Deputy Head of Theoretical Division and Head of Plasma Computation Unit, Culham Laboratory, United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority
Professor M. J. SEATON
Professor of Physics, University College, London
Mr. F. J. M. LAVER
Director, Computer Division, Ministry of Technology
Dr. A. V. COHEN and Mr. D. W. TANNER
Department of Education and Science
The date of this Report is 14th June, 1965. It was presented to the Council for Scientific Policy and the University Grants Committee, who advised the Secretary of State for Education and Science about it in July and August 1965.
The assistance of those who gave permission for published sources of information to be quoted in the Report is gratefully acknowledged.
- Summary of Recommendations
- Chapter I Scope of the Survey
- Chapter II Needs of University Computer Services
- Chapter III Comments on Applications Received by the U.G.C.
- Chapter IV Meetings with Computer Manufacturers
- Chapter V Meeting the needs of Universities and similar Institutions
- Chapter VI Needs of the Research Councils
- Chapter VII The United Kingdom seen against the United States
- Chapter VIII Financial and other Consequences of the Recommendations
- Chapter IX Postscript