I’m really quite dismayed that the UK government seem determined to cut funding from scientific research. Dismayed and, frankly, disappointed. After all the times in the past when funding has been mercilessly slashed, you’d think they’d be running out of places to cut funding from. Apparently not. A forthcoming government spending review threatens to cut up to 25% of research funding in the UK. This is serious now.
You’d think that it would work in our favour, the fact that us scientists are rather a nice bunch of people who never complain too loudly. If anyone threatens the jobs and salaries of certain other groups, they simply go on strike and get their union chiefs to start lobbying the government. Miners, firefighters, postal workers, the London bloody underground… all of them. Science, sadly, has no such infrastructure, and nor would striking make much difference. In fact, the only people who would be harmed by strikes in science would be undergrads who’d be missing out on their teaching. And they shouldn’t have to be made to suffer.
It’s remarkable that the system is basically gearing up to train scientists so that they can leave the country and work elsewhere. More bizarre that the reputations of some UK universities attract students from far and wide. So much so that, for instance, in places like China, it’s considered a great honour to study in the UK. Cuts in research will mean fewer scientists at universities. This will impact on teaching standards. Apparently the government doesn’t care about this, and is quite happy to lose any reputation that has been gained. The UK’s reputation in international research has already been severely damaged by the fiasco of physics funding over the past few years. After the government decided to stop funding certain international collaborations, it’s going to be harder and harder for the UK to be involved in large scale projects like the LHC or the E-ELT. And who suffers the most? People like me and my peers. Consequences will never be the same.
So what can be done? The Science is Vital campaign has been set up by cell biologist Jennifer Rohn. If you live in the UK and you care even remotely about science and research, then I urge you to do something to get involved. Sign the petition. Write to your local MP to voice your concerns. If you’re able to, go to London to join the rally tomorrow, or to lobby Parliament on October 12th.
I think it is the government’s problem, how to balance the budget. They have to decide that science is vital and then how that happens is up to those experts.
If the science budget was cut by 15%, what is your vision of the future?
I worry about the younger generation. Those scientists who are already well established will probably weather it. If we’re going to lose 25,000 positions it is going to be the young people who go. I can imagine a whole generation of scientists being lost.
— Excerpt from a Nature interview with Jenny Rohn
Latest news updates are appearing on the Science is Vital twitter feed. I keep watching it, in hopes I might hear some good news…