Tag Archives: Coalition Government
CaSE welcomes today’s announcement from George Osborne of an additional £200m for the Research Partnership Investment Fund – bringing the fund’s total to £300m. Read More
At their party conference this morning in Brighton, the Liberal Democrats passed ‘Developing a Future – Policies for Science and Research’ – a policy motion urging the Government to increase investment in science and research across the UK.
The motion was moved by former scientist Dr Julian Huppert MP, and CaSE contributed to the development of the underlying policy paper.
The Liberal Democrats’ de facto science spokesman, Dr Julian Huppert MP, has published a paper outlining where he thinks the party’s science policy should be heading.
“Developing a future” is the party’s first dedicated science policy paper since 1991 – and, more importantly, the first that has been developed while the party is in Government. As an added interest for CaSE, we took part in Dr Huppert’s consultation, and have been eager to see the outcome.
You can read the full policy paper here, but we’ve pulled out some selected highlights below.
David Cameron, Life Sciences Strategy Launch
Following the focus on the Life Sciences in the Growth Plan, the publication of today’s Life Sciences strategy and the Prime Minister’s speech provide more details on how the Government plans to build on this important area. You can read CaSE Director Imran Khan’s comments here.
The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), the UK’s leading independent scientific advocacy group, gave an initial welcome to some of the Government’s proposals around the teaching of science and maths in schools. CaSE will produce a full, considered, reaction to the proposals in due course, highlighting remaining areas of concern.
The Department for Education announced its intention to provide bursaries of up to £20,000 for teacher training in maths, physics, and chemistry. The move comes after CaSE had raised concerns that lack of funding could leave the UK with a serious shortage of teachers able to train and inspire the scientists and engineers of tomorrow.
Commenting on the Science Budget Allocations, Imran Khan, Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said:
“The allocations confirm that UK science and engineering faces four very tricky years ahead. While some of our international competitors are looking to the future, British research will be busy retrenching.”
“It is encouraging that the Government has tried to protect research where it can. It looks like capital spending on research will be hit less hard than capital spending across BIS – it’s down 41%, rather than the expected 44%. But this still means a dramatic reduction in investment in equipment and facilities, putting a big dent in Britain’s scientific credentials.”
CaSE has welcomed the appointment of Prof Adrian Smith as the new Director General for Knowledge and Innovation (DG-KI) at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – the department responsible for the Science Budget.
The appointment comes after concern that, for the first time in decades, the position responsible for overseeing government activity on science was likely to go to a career civil servant with no direct experience of the science and engineering sector.
Imran Khan, Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering, said:
“Having an individual of Prof Smith’s calibre and background at the top level in Whitehall is essential. It’s really encouraging that government have recognised the importance of having someone who understands the research sector in charge of science at BIS.”
CaSE has registered its deep concern over changes to how science and engineering is represented within the Whitehall department responsible for them, the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS).
Currently, Prof Adrian Smith FRS is the Director General for Science and Research (DGSR) at BIS. As well as being a pivotal figure in the Spending Review process that saw the science budget spared deep cuts, he leads the process by which the budget will be allocated to different areas of science. He is one of a line of DGSR-equivalents who have been appointed from outside the civil service and who have brought an understanding of (and credibility in) the science and research sector to the role.
By Katherine Barnes, Science Writer
Backlash over the Government’s interim cap on non-EU migrants continued this week, with scientists and engineers from academia and industry criticising the scheme and warning of its impact on the economy. University leaders are now protesting against a “double whammy”, with impending cuts to the science budget and an immigration cap that limits their ability to bring in top talent from abroad.
The government’s temporary cap on migrants was imposed on 28 June, in order to prevent a sudden swell in visa applications before a more permanent limit is brought in next year, but the limit was based on the number of overseas staff recruited in 2009, in the depths of recession.
Earlier today the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, gave a speech on science funding, in which he warned of considerable government spending cuts and urged the scientific community to achieve “more with less”. CaSE has compiled a comparison of Cable’s comments with those of current world leaders, below.
Dr Vince Cable, President of the UK Board of Trade and Secretary of State for Business – September 2010
“How do we economise without damaging science? What reforms are needed to help us achieve more with less?
Barack Obama, President of the United States – April 2009
“At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science, that support for research is somehow a luxury at moments defined by necessities. I fundamentally disagree. Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been before.”
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany – April 2010
“During my term as Federal Chancellor, the Federal Government has repeatedly declared that the prosperity of a country such as Germany, with its scarce mineral resources, must be sought through investment in research, education and science, and this to a disproportionate degree.”
Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France – June 2010
“Science is, I am well aware, a fragile enterprise and scientists must be defended against obscurantism, fanaticism, wilful ignorance and contempt for the truth. The economic downturn should not prompt us to postpone investment in science, but rather to bring it forward and consolidate it.”
Dr Manmohan Singh, President of India – January 2010
“If India has to emerge as a knowledge power in the 21st century, then it can only be through a strong capability in science and technology”
CaSE Director Imran Khan has written a post for the New Scientist S-Word blog warning that the new Academies Act, which made it through parliament this week, has removed the obligation by new Academy schools to teach science and maths in line with the national curriculum. Under the previous government, Academy schools (publically-funded but independently-run schools) were required to teach science, maths, english and ICT, however this requirement has been removed by the new law.
As Imran points out, “More than 9 in 10 businesses employ people with skills in science, technology, engineering and maths, and two thirds of all employers report difficulty in recruiting enough of those workers. Leaving students without an understanding of these subjects doesn’t just deprive them of the enjoyment of science, but also seriously harms their career prospects – and the economy too”.
Annette Williams is Director of the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET (UKRC )
The language of struggle is common when talking about equality. Yes – it has been a struggle. And there is still much to be done. While progress has been made over 40 years of initiatives and modernisation, some of the current facts and figures about the participation of women scientists, engineers and technologists remain shocking.
This imbalance matters – not only for reasons of fairness, but because gender equality is good for business and innovation in science, engineering and technology (SET). It values and nurtures talent, builds a more inclusive and diverse workforce and can lead to better business performance, helping unlock economic recovery.
Martin Griffiths is an adviser at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.
Science had a higher profile than ever in the run-up to the election, thanks to #scivote, the series of debates between Lord Drayson, Adam Afriyie and Evan Harris, and the launch of the Science Party. But in the immediate aftermath, the outlook for science in Parliament seemed gloomy.
None of the three science spokesmen retained their brief, with Harris even losing his seat, and long-time advocates like Brian Iddon, Doug Naysmith, Phil Willis and Ian Taylor all retiring. But there are still around 70 MPs with a STEM degree, including some interesting new faces, and we’re now getting an idea of who the main players in science in this Parliament will be.
Science and the New Parliament preceded (and slightly overlapped with) the budget today. It was organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) with the support of many other organisations, including CaSE.
Speakers came from across science and engineering to discuss the importance of working together with parliament and government to develop public policy. Imran Khan, CaSE Director, outlined CaSE’s current priorities and spoke of the need to work positively to engage and support incoming MPs.
A range of government and parliamentary speakers contributed their thoughts, including John Bercow, Speaker of the House, who opened the proceedings, Mark Lancaster, longtime supporter of the RSC’s work, Malcolm Wicks, former science minister, and Professor Sir John Beddington, Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA).
CaSE Director Imran Khan wrote an article in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper, calling on the government to throw its weight behind sectors that deliver economic growth in order to reduce the budget deficit, particularly science and engineering.
As Khan argues, research and development (R&D) in Britain’s private sector relies heavily on public support for education, research and industry. To make the most of the UK’s scientific and engineering potential, and to use that potential to fight the deficit, the government needs to set out a clear, long-term plan for investment in this sector. Efficiency savings can be made, just as in other sectors, but it is vital that any savings are reinvested back into science and engineering.
Business leaders from some of Britain’s biggest high-tech companies – whose total R&D spend is more than twice the government’s science budget – came together this week to underline this point in a letter coordinated by CaSE.
CaSE has also published a pre-budget briefing arguing that if your aim is to cut the budget deficit, you need to spend more on education, research and development – and certainly not less.
George Osborne introduced the first round of £6.24 billion of coalition cuts today, identifying many areas of “waste” and “low value spending”. David Laws was left to fill out the detail of the cuts. Many of the cuts clearly go beyond natural wastage and into areas with serious implications for future economic growth. It would be extremely helpful to have a clearer rationale for why certain areas were targeted.
CaSE will be following up on the announcements, outlined below, to understand the detail better. We will also be working hard to make sure that science and engineering, teaching, research and innovation are defended from the next series of announcements in the budget on June 22nd.
The Ministerial Code
The Code sets out the over-arching duties which Government Ministers must abide by. Section 5.2 says;
Ministers have a duty to give fair consideration and due weight to informed and impartial advice from civil servants, as well as to other considerations and advice in reaching policy decisions, and should have regard to the Principles of Scientific Advice to Government.
The coalition government has published more details of its plans in Our Programme for government this morning. It does not add much to the initial coalition agreement with respect to science and engineering policies. It certainly lacks many policies that might be expected from looking at the pre-election promises from each of the parties. The introduction states:
we both want to build a new economy from the rubble of the old. We will support sustainable growth and enterprise, balanced across all regions and all industries, and promote the green industries that are so
essential for our future. (page 7)
The Government has given us an important and ambitious vision of a ‘new economy’, but not enough detail on how science and engineering will help us get there.
Science and engineering have a critical role to play in achieving growth and reducing the deficit. The coalition needs to explain how and when it will develop a long-term strategy for science and engineering. This is necessary to address the technological challenges facing the UK, to secure our international competitiveness, and to make the most of the economic growth that investment in innovation can provide.
CaSE has developed a list of those MPs with an interest or background in science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM) who have been re-elected or newly elected to Parliament. We have now written to these MPs, inviting them to engage with science and engineering issues. If you wish to give us any feedback on the list please get in touch.