Recently, the British Government's arrangements for accomplishing research and development have been examined in two reports, one of which was prepared by Lord N.M.V. Rothschild. (The other, issued at the same time, is the product of a committee headed by Sir Frederick Dainton.) Lord Rothschild's report, The Organisation and Management of Government Research and Development, recommended that: ‘The Institute of Hydrology should be physically transferred, together with its staff to the Department of the Environment where it should be fused with the DOE's contiguous Hydraulics Research Station.’
The following article, which first appeared in Nature (January 7, 1972), was written in response to that recommendation. It appears here as both an excellent argument for freedom in scientific research and as an equally good, brief description of the work of one of the world's most respected hydrological organizations. Moreover, a similar question of the responsiveness of research to national needs is presently the subject of debate in the United States. The National Science Foundation has already established a program (RANN-Research Applied to National Needs) in an effort to increase this responsiveness while avoiding the excessive straitjacketing of science.