Geological governance
Surveying the North Sea in the Cold War
in Scientific governance in Britain, 1914–79
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In the mid-1960s the British Government began issuing commercial licences for the exploration of the North Sea for gas and oil. Companies were required to share their geophysical findings with the Ministry of Power, and by 1967 officials in the Ministry were aware that they had a great deal of geological information they could neither analyse nor control. They were also aware that the first licenses would expire in 1970, at which time the Ministry would need to know the value of the licensed areas as another round of licensing began. The Institute of Geological Sciences (now the British Geological Survey) was therefore instructed to begin a rapid survey of the geology of the North Sea on behalf of the Ministry. This expansion of the Institute’s functions shaped it over the following decade, recast relations between ministries and scientific experts, and had long-term implications for the funding of ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ science in Britain.

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