What has British science policy really been?

‘What has British science policy really been?’ in British Academy, Lessons from the History of UK Science Policy (2019), pp. 31-9 - in this contribution I tell a brief alternative story of British research policy in the twentieth century arguing that much of the history of research policy is bunk, that research policies have been undertaken by multiple agencies and their scope and ambition have changed radically over time; that research policies need to be understood in the context of national defence, industrial, economic, and agricultural and other policies; that, in the past, research policies have been seen as a substitute for radical policies that governments did not favour; that today perhaps the most important lesson is not to indulge in delusions of grandeur about the quality and significance of British science. Its weight in the world has changed drastically, as has that of British business, and this needs to be understood for the development of an effective policy. And lastly, in recent years research policy has been a substitute for industrial policy, just as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century.