Science advice to MPs faces cuts

In a letter organised by CaSE today, leading figures from the science and engineering policy community have warned that potential budget cuts to the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST) threaten the quality of scientific advice in Westminster.

Most parliamentarians do not have a scientific or technological background, and yet science and technology issues are increasingly integral to policy, across a wide range of subject areas.  POST helps parliamentarians to examine such issues effectively by writing briefings, organising events and helping politicians engage with the scientific community.

However, as part of a savings programme being introduced across the House of Commons,  the office is facing a 17% cut in its budget, or £98,000, by 2014/15. Taken alongside a recent voluntary reduction of 7%, it means that POST could potentially lose almost a quarter of its budget in a relatively short period of time. Such large cuts threaten to undermine the quality, scope and independence of the scientific and technological advice on offer.

Commenting on the letter, CaSE Director Imran Khan said:

“POST provides a crucial service in ensuring our Parliamentarians make informed decisions on policy and are fully engaged with the scientific community. Disproportionate cuts like those being considered could have far-reaching implications on policy making and, ultimately, the future health and prosperity of the the UK.”

“CaSE calls upon the House of Commons to sustain and support POST by making clear that it has a valued and adequately-funded future inside Parliament.”

CaSE’s letter has been sent to the House of Commons Commission – the body responsible for the administration and services of the House – and its Chair, Speaker John Bercow MP. It has also been copied to the leaders of all three main political parties and their science spokespersons. You can read the full letter here.

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One Comment

  1. Posted 08/11/2012 at 19:11 | Permalink

    Putting forth a petition is very welcome, in that it asks the public to express its support; however in order for the public to be appreciative of science it has to be made aware first and this can only be achieved if the public is engaged in a two-way conversation with the scientific community. My recipe for tackling this problem at its roots is in a paper I titled “Who cares about physics today? A marketing strategy for the survival of fundamental science and the benefit of society”: it is available at http://arxiv.org/abs/1210.0082, I hope you will find it interesting.
    For a more condensed treatment of how to prevent budget cuts to affect science, in Europe as well as in the US, you may want to take a look at this entry on my blog http://drcinnamon.blogspot.com/2012/10/sequestration-cuts-in-europe-this.html.

    Best,

    Umberto Cannella, PhD
    Postdoctoral Research Assistant
    Maryland Center for Fundamental Physics
    Rm. 4109, J. S. Toll Physics Bldg
    University of Maryland
    College Park, Maryland 20742

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