Recent highlights

These posts are some of the recent highlights from the CaSE blog. To see all of our recent news and commentary, please see our full blog.

Greater ambition needed for science and engineering

It is great to see the Liberal Democrats recognising the integral role that a healthy science base plays in supporting and growing innovative businesses. Today’s announcement proposes continuing to ringfence the science budget throughout the next Parliament and is a welcome first step.

However, on its own, ringfencing the science budget will not be sufficient to foster the healthy and productive science base that the UK needs and that parties have stated they want to build. We are now entering a fifth year of a flat-cash settlement for the science budget at £4.6bn with another flat cash settlement agreed for 15-16. The cumulative erosion of the ringfenced science budget will be over £1.1bn from the beginning of 2010 spending review period up to 2015/16. Deflation will continue to affect the research budget every year that flat cash is maintained reducing the capacity and strength of our research base and missing out on the substantial growth opportunities that research suggests investing in science brings. To be most effective, commitment to the ringfence must also come alongside commitment to increasing total investment in science.

CaSE Assistant Director Naomi Weir said:

“We are now in a position where the UK is investing in science at a lower rate than the majority of the EU and the OECD and it may not be possible to sustain its position as a world-leading research nation. Greater efficiency can only go so far. If we’re serious about science, and want to reap the benefits of a healthy science and engineering sector we need to invest.

CaSE wants to see Parties committing to setting out a ten year framework for investment in science and engineering on an upward trajectory that AT LEAST matches growth.”

CaSE will be writing to each of the party leaders in the Autumn setting out the actions, developed in consultation with our members and collaborators, that we want to see reflected in Political Party commitments and taken in the next term of Parliament.

 

Notes:

See the CaSE 2014 Budget briefing for further analysis of the Science Budget.

Data for the graph are from R and D funding and specialisation, in OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2013: Innovation for Growth, OECD, 2013

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CaSE responds to 2014 GCSE Results

This year sees many changes to the GCSE system including the addition of the Further Additional Science qualification and changes to school accountability measures driving behaviour change. The changes make it difficult to unpick precisely what today’s results mean for science. Equally, the figures out today highlight the increasingly complex nature of the options for studying science facing schools, teachers and students.

What we do know is that there are significant changes in the way in which young people are taking science at GCSE.

  • Number of entries for 15 year olds taking Science has dropped by over a third (35%/109k) driven by changes to school accountability measures whereby the first result a student gets for any exam is counted towards the school performance league tables
  • Major reductions to the number of entries for 16 year olds to Biology (-18%), Chemistry (-6%) and Physics (-14%)
  • 21k students took Further Additional Science creating an alternative triple science route
  • Entries for Science and Additional Science have gone up 24% and 16% respectively
  • The total number of entries for 16 year olds taking science (of all forms) has stayed relatively stable (up 0.7%/6k) despite the overall cohort size reducing 2.1%

The historic trend of significantly above average results for those that do take Biology, Chemistry and Physics separately continues (around 14% achieve A* compared to an average of 7% across all subjects). This suggests that schools continue to only put the highest achieving students into the triple sciences.

 

The majority of students take Science and Additional Science with 21,000 this year also taking Further Additional Science. Taking all three of these qualifications is an alternative route that covers the same content as ‘triple science’. The grade profile for Further Additional Science shows slightly lower proportions achieving A*s (11%) than separate sciences, although still well above the average for all subjects of 7%. This suggests that the new qualification could be a welcome way of opening up triple sciences to a wider range of students. The Campaign for Science and Engineering believes that a good quality science education should be available to all young people and include the option to study triple science, by either route, at GCSE.

Computing GCSE, as with A-level, has seen a large increase in uptake from 4,000 to 16,000, but again males make up over 85% of entrants.

CaSE Assistant Director Naomi Weir said:

“Congratulations to all young people receiving their GCSE results today. Science and maths provide a great grounding for all sorts of careers, from becoming a scientist or engineer to marketing, finance or starting a business. Whether it’s a love of being inquisitive, solving problems or exploring the world around us, we encourage all students to continue and enjoy studying science at A-level and beyond.

We want to see all schools offering high quality options for studying Biology, Chemistry and Physics to all young people up to 16. That will require sufficient resources for labs and practicals, specialist teachers with up-to-date subject knowledge and some stability in the system. We want to see stability that enables teachers to focus on equipping our young people to explore the micro and macro wonders of the natural world rather than navigating complex new system changes.”

 

Notes:

The JCQ data for the 2013 GCSE results can be found here

CaSE’s response to last year’s A-level results can be found here

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Rise of science and maths – CaSE responds to 2014 A-level results

Rising popularity of science and maths

Today’s A-level results show the continued rise in popularity of science and maths subjects at A-level. Maths continues its extraordinary rise to overtake English as the highest entry subject with 10.7% of the total A-level entry. Biology retains its position in third place with 7.7% of total entry. Chemistry assumes its highest ranking over the period 2002-2014 to take fifth place. Physics regains a 2002 high of 4.4% after a dip in popularity in the mid-2000s.


Read More »

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CaSE calls for Government to support skilled migration

The Government recognises, and CaSE advocates, that higher education is one of the UK’s major export industries and that immigration is needed for building a strong science and engineering sector. These sectors both operate in a global environment competing for skilled and talented students and workers.  Read More »
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CaSE responds to BIS Capital Consultation

In response to the 2014 BIS Capital Consultation “Creating the Future: a 2020 Vision for Science and Research”, CaSE wrote a letter to the Universities and Science Minister, then David Willets, and developed a joint submission with The Science Council, outlining key issues raised by their respective member bodies.

As part of this submission, CaSE and The Science Council believe that decisions about capital spending should be guided by the following principles:

  • Long-term, stable and balanced strategy: a capital funding roadmap should sit within an overarching, long-term vision for UK science that supports high-quality multi­disciplinary basic and applied research, the development of a skilled workforce, sustains our world-leading universities and research institutions, attracts industries from all over the world and builds a diverse and sustainable innovation ecosystem.
  • Decisions must not be based on political expediency: capital infrastructure decisions must be determined by robust cost-benefit analysis outlined in a comprehensive business plan, not determined by electoral timetables or political agendas
  • Robust and transparent decision-making: a robust mechanism for making capital funding decisions should be outlined within a long-term research strategy. A long-term strategy must set out capital investment priorities and provide flexibility for investment in new technologies.
  • Science community-led decisions: within the robust mechanism, funding priorities and decisions at an operational level must be aligned with an overall strategy and made primarily on the basis of scientific excellence and potential impact.
  • Resources to match capital investment: funding of human and material resources to ensure efficient operation and maintenance of facilities and equipment should be matched to capital investment to ensure that resources are used efficiently and achieve the greatest impact.
  • Nurturing a highly skilled workforce: a highly skilled workforce is essential to maximise capital investment.  There needs to be an aligned, long term and adequately resourced skills and training strategy to nurture the next generation of talent to match the long term capital investment strategy.

The full response can be found here.

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Recent Round Up

CaSE has published its July 2014 e-bulletin, giving a summary of all CaSE’s activities and news over the last month. These include:

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Inspiring the next generation of female engineers

The QEPrize is a global £1 million pound prize that rewards and celebrates the engineers responsible for an innovation that has been of global impact on humanity.

The inaugural prize was awarded to the five engineers who made seminal contributions to the creation and proliferation of the Internet and World Wide Web: Louis Pouzin, Vint Cerf, Bob Kahn, Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreessen. As nominations have now closed, we are working on inspiring young people, especially girls, to become engineers. Read More »

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SET stats – a timely R&D health-check

In all of the excitement of a major reshuffle, it would have been easy to miss that the ONS published the Government Expenditure on Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) for 2012-13 this week. Read More »

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What might the reshuffle mean for science and engineering?

In this Government’s most widespread reshuffle to date we’ve seen multiple changes to people and portfolios that will impact on science and engineering. Read More »

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Goodbye to David Willetts

Science Minister David Willetts speaking at CaSE's 25th anniversary celebration in 2011

Former Science Minister David Willetts at CaSE’s 25th anniversary celebration in 2011

Today David Willetts steps down after four years as Science and Universities Minister. Read More »

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CaSE looks forward to working with new Science and Education Ministers

Today has seen change across ministerial responsibilities for universities, science, education and skills:

  • Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities, The Rt Hon Dr Greg Clark (Formerly David Willetts – standing down at next election)
  • Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan (Formerly Michael Gove – appointed Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)
  • Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, Nick Boles (Formerly Matthew Hancock – appointed Minister of State for Business, Enterprise and Energy) Read More »
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CaSE welcomes new Membership Manager


The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), the UK’s leading independent scientific advocacy group, welcomes Jenni Lacey as the new Membership Engagement and Development Manager.

Jenni will manage all aspects of CaSE’s individual and organisational membership.

She studied Natural Science at the University of Sussex and went on to complete a Masters in Science Communication at Imperial College London. Prior to joining CaSE she has worked in the marketing team for scientific equipment manufacturers and most recently as Membership Marketing Officer at the Society of Biology. Read More »

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Royal Society Vision

However hard people try, it is clear nobody can predict exactly what will happen in the future. But we can be sure that in five, ten and twenty years time science and mathematics will be at the heart of everyone’s lives, and skills in “STEM” areas will probably be even more essential in order to get a job and to to participate fully in society as a citizen. Read More »

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Recent round-up

CaSE has published its June 2014 e-bulletin, giving a summary of all CaSE’s activities and news over the last month. These include:

  • CaSE has welcomed the launch of the Equality Challenge Unit’s Race Equality Charter Mark national trial. Last month CaSE published its new report, Improving Diversity in STEM, bringing together data and research from the last five years to build a picture of the current state of diversity in STEM, from education to the workforce. Read More »
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CaSE responds to ‘Medical Research: What’s it Worth?’ Study

CaSE welcomes today’s launch of the ‘Medical Research: What’s it worth?’ study which shows that each pound invested in cancer-related research by the taxpayer and charities returns around 40 pence to the UK every year.

Along with previous What’s it worth studies and CaSE’s report on the Economic Significance of the UK Science Base, this builds on the evidence to support advice that government can drive economic growth by investing in science and engineering research. Read More »

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Addressing the Gender Balance in Northern Ireland

The STEM Business group in Northern Ireland recently launched a report called ‘Addressing Gender Balance- Reaping the Gender Dividend in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths’. Read More »

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Vacancy: Part-time paid internship (3 month contract)

Part time: 0.6 FTE (3 days per week)

London Living Wage: £800 per month at 0.6 FTE (equivalent £1,335 per month pro rata)

The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) is the leading independent advocacy group for science and engineering in the UK. We campaign on behalf of our members from across the science and engineering community, in industry and academia, to raise the profile of science and engineering in politics and government. We have a track record of successfully influencing politics and the media at the highest levels to campaign for better policies for science and engineering. We want the UK to have world-leading research and education, skilled scientists and engineers, and innovative businesses. Read More »

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Diversity and Science – WiSET

The WiSET team within the Centre for Science Education at Sheffield Hallam University have been addressing the barriers in science (and technology, engineering, maths and built environment) for under-represented groups, particularly women, over a number of years. Read More »

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CaSE welcomes launch of Race Equality Charter Mark

CaSE welcomes today’s launch of the Equality Challenge Unit’s race equality charter mark national trial. Indeed one of the key recommendations from our recent report, ‘Improving Diversity in STEM’ was that universities should proactively engage with the Equality Challenge Unit’s Race Equality Charter Mark, using it as a framework to uncover and address any barriers to access and progression for staff and students from an ethnic minority group. So we are pleased to see this recommendation so broadly adopted. Read More »

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Recent round-up

CaSE has published its May 2014 e-bulletin, giving a summary of all CaSE’s activities and news over the last month. These include:

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