Thursday, October 21, 2010

CSR special: Science

We've seen headline responses that science has been saved from the axeman, that over the next four years it's budget will be frozen in cash terms - which is a real term cut of 10% over the period at a time when similar nations are investing in vital new technologies. Cameron himself said that this was a "good outcome for science".

Well, compared to some other departments that is essentially true. Many leading scientists have had their first born returned to them unscathed and the testicle clamps have been put back into storage.

However, let's not get too excited (as if), government spending accounts for 30% of the total spend on scientific research in this country and helps support the other 70% which comes from NGOs, private companies and abroad. That 10% cut, was described by Science is Vital head honcho Imran Khan as "a 30% or 40% decrease in new PhDs that we'll have next year for instance".

It will be some months before we see what the specific outcomes are for university departments as it is in the purview of Master Thaumaturgist Vince Cable to decide how the funds are allocated but it is worth pointing out that specialist teaching in schools is in doubt and HE funding more generally is undergoing a massive 'overhaul' which could see radical changes over the next few years in the shape of HE education.

Kudos to the science campaigners for their effective campaigners in this field and I don't want to understate their achievement. I will say though that even where the budget has not hit hardest it still lacks vision for the future.

The idea that, right now, we should not be heavily investing in flood defenses, research in renewable technologies and technologies to help us save energy while revitalising our manufacturing industry for home and export just seems really short sighted.

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