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Transformations: delving into an alternative side of science

From 18:00 on Tuesday 8 September, Bradford’s independent quarter will transform as part of this year’s British Science Festival. ‘Transformations: North Parade after dark’ promises an evening fusing science, art, music and everything in between.

The evening’s theme of transformations is fitting on many different levels. The North Parade area has undergone a recent revival and a host of new independent venues have opened with the desire to offer something different.

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Assessing the UK’s soil policy

In this International Year of Soils, there is growing recognition of the problems affecting our soils and the need to address those problems for our collective future. Certainly there is widespread concern amongst the soil science community and, I think, growing recognition of the problems amongst the farming community. But we do not yet have widespread public awareness of the value of soils or effective support amongst policy makers. We are publishing our Living Soil: a call to action report, which we hope will help to change that.

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CaSE refused information on BIS “efficiency and effectiveness review”

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has refused to provide information to CaSE on the scope or findings of an “efficiency and effectiveness review” by business consultants, McKinsey and Company.

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STEM GCSEs increase in popularity

Data out today accompanying the GCSE results show an increase in the proportion of exam entries for STEM subjects. Unfortunately, there is also a clear gender divide, with non-compulsory STEM subjects remaining more popular with boys than with girls.

Responding to today’s results, CaSE Acting Director, Naomi Weir, said:

Congratulations to those receiving GCSE results today. It is encouraging to see increased uptake in STEM subjects and another dramatic jump in the number of students taking computing in particular.

The results also underline a long established but not widely recognised fact – that girls and boys perform equally well in science and maths subjects. It shouldn’t still have to be highlighted, but there is a persistent, and incorrect, perception in our culture of who is good at maths and physics. It is great that the numbers set the story straight.

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A-level results day: A mixed picture for STEM

A-level results are out today and the stats reveal all three core sciences have seen fewer students enter exams in 2015 despite overall entries rising compared to 2014. Maths however continues to extend its lead as the most popular subject.

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Focus on Light

The General Assembly of the United Nations has designated 2015 as the International Year of Light (IYL2015), creating a great opportunity to mark some historic milestones and celebrate scientific heroes, from Ibn al-Haytham’s early work on optics in 1015 to Charles Kao’s demonstration in 1965 of the transmission of light in optical fibres. Other anniversaries include the publication of Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism in 1865 and Einstein’s theory of general relativity in 1915.

Even more importantly, the Year of Light has set some seriously aspirational goals, which we in the UK are playing our part to pursue.

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How many learned societies does it take to tackle antimicrobial resistance?

In our blog post of February 2014 a colleague and I argued that Learned Societies, acting as ‘boundary organisations’, are in a unique position to bring together diverse groups of researchers around a single issue. In doing so, we can facilitate action.

Since then, that’s exactly what we, and our policy colleagues, have been doing; a collaboration of seven learned societies has recently completed a series of multidisciplinary networking workshops aimed at scientists at all career stages from academia, industry and the public sector. The issue: antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

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Summer holidays homework

Summer recess is upon us, which should mean things quieten down and I can find time for that paper on Total Factor Productivity that I’ve been meaning to read for so long. But no, instead we’ve been hit by a barrage of consultations to keep us busy over the holidays. I’ve pulled together all the ones I’ve spotted  that are interesting to the science and engineering community below.

If you know of any more or are able to feed in your views to us on any of the consultations, please do get in touch – martin@sciencecampaign.org.uk.

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New analysis shows BIS understates returns for investment in R&D

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has just published a really insightful new analysis of the relationship between public and private investment in R&D.

The report makes some conclusions that could be very influential in the upcoming Spending Review:

  • BIS may be understating the leverage that occurs from public funding of research. The new analysis suggests that an extra £1 of public investment will give rise to an increase in private funding of between £1.13 and £1.60 (an average of £1.36). The report says BIS currently use an estimate of £0.85 – and may therefore be underestimating the effect of changes in public expenditure on R&D.
  • Maintaining the Science Budget in cash terms has given rise to an estimated additional £1.2bn of private sector investment that would not have occurred if the budget had been cut in line with other government departments.
  • The report estimates that an extra £1 of public expenditure in university research leads to a further 29p of private investment in research in universities and £1.07 in research conducted elsewhere.

The report uses and builds upon research commissioned by CaSE on the economic significance of the UK science base.

The new findings really show the value of investing in R&D. In the upcoming Spending Review the Government will be looking to see where it can get the biggest bang for its buck as it makes difficult spending decisions. This new report gives the Treasury solid economic evidence that investment in R&D leverages private sector investment and drives much-needed economic growth. Crucially, it proves that not cutting the Science Budget was the right thing to do in 2010 and goes further to show that increasing the budget will bring big returns.

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CaSE calls for evidence on impact of immigration on UK science and engineering

Today we’re launching a survey asking for evidence of the the impact of immigration on UK science and engineering, and the effect current Government policy has had on the UK’s ability to attract the best scientists and engineers from around the world. We need your views and experiences to inform our research and recommendations for the Government, which we will be publishing in a full report by the end of the year.

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Government publishes its productivity plan

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The Government today published its plan to raise UK productivity, “Fixing the foundations: creating a more prosperous nation”, as part of the Summer Budget.

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What have we learned from today’s budget?

So the Chancellor has given his much-anticipated all-Conservative Budget. What can the science and engineering community take away from today’s announcements and what do we still not know?

What we already knew

First, what did we already know before George Osborne stood up at the despatch box today? Read More »

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Dowling report says simplify support for university-business collaboration

The Dowling Review report was launched yesterday, making a number of recommendations on how university-business research collaborations can be better encouraged and supported in the UK. They include simplifying the support available to academics and industry, better rewards for people who collaborate, more funding, improvements to tech transfer, and better coordination of Government policies. The recommendations are targeted at public and private organisations across Government and the research community.

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Celebrating National Women in Engineering Day

The British automotive industry is booming. Bouncing back from a low point in the early 2000s, Britain is now the base for more manufacturers than any other European country: mass-market manufacturers, premium car-makers, bus builders and dozens of smaller producers, as well as eight of the 11 Formula One teams.  The UK is one of the world centres of motoring research and development, and attracts billions of pounds in foreign investment every year.

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From niche to norm

A new Parliament brings with it many new MPs. In considering the content of my few remarks for this Tuesday’s Parliamentary Links Day on Science and the new Parliament I took the opportunity to reflect on what it is that the new intake of MPs care about.

Why have they put themselves through the most public of job interviews?

What is it they would like to use their voice and position as an MP to achieve? Read More »

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Addressing the challenges facing physics

I shall be taking up office as president of the Institute of Physics shortly after the organisation’s introduction of a new strategy – a realignment of our aims and our work to better reflect the modern world. So one of the main concerns during my time at the helm will be helping to drive that strategy through.

In particular, a personal priority will be to improve the take-up of physics among women, who historically are drastically under-represented in the UK – only a fifth of physics A-level students, for example, are girls. The IOP already does a lot of excellent work aimed at remedying this, and I’ll be looking at how we can boost those efforts further. Read More »

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New Lords S&T Committee and POST members announced

The new Members of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee have been announced, along with a new appointment to the Board of the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST).

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Election campaigns underway to choose the next Chair of the S&T Committee

If you thought election fever was over, think again. The halls of Westminter are abuzz as the race begins to choose who will lead this Parliament’s powerful Select Committees. But don’t worry, it’s just MPs that have to vote this time, although you can contact your MP and try to influence their vote if you wish.

The number of Select Committees each party will Chair is based on the total number of MPs they have. So Conservatives have been given 14 Chairs, Labour have 10, and the SNP get two. The parties themselves then wrangle over which of the 26 committees up for grabs their party will Chair. Of greatest interest to us, the Conservatives have got the Science and Technology Committee Read More »

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How Science and Engineering is Represented in the new Parliament

With the official opening of Parliament, the dust has settled after the general election and MPs must get back to business. We think it is time to take a look at the changes to the representation of science and engineering in the House of Commons, as it is imperative that there is still a body of support for this vital sector.

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Why champion science and engineering? asks Andrew Miller

If you are a new Member of Parliament you will already have discovered that life in the House is not quite what you imagined. You will be trying to cope with a mountain of casework whilst not having had the time to appoint staff, sorting out domestic and office accommodation on an inadequate budget, meeting all the commitments made during the election and not least, trying to find out how the arcane rules of the House actually work! These are just a few of the challenges you are facing so what am I doing trying to get you to do something else? Read More »

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