Tag Archives: Guest Article

Plan i: How innovation can drive economic growth

It’s no secret that the UK’s economy is a mess. What’s more of a surprise is that, four years into the crisis, the debate on what to do about the economy is still missing the point. While politicians and economists debate the virtues of Plan A and Plan B, austerity and stimulus, they’re missing something that may be obvious to engineers and scientists: that the real source of sustainable economic growth and societal progress isn’t short-term economic tinkering. It’s innovation. Read More »

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Lib Dem MP discusses new science proposals

Julian Huppert MP

“Science and research are critical to our future health, wealth and happiness. The UK has a proud history of leading the world in ideas and innovation that have changed our planet and way of life.

But in recent decades, the UK government has not sufficiently recognised the importance of research and development. This country spends less on R&D than we used to, and than other countries do now.

If unchecked, this decline threatens to hurt our economy, reduce employment, and render the UK ever more reliant on buying innovation from overseas at great expense.

Read More »

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The Chief Scientific Advisor Agenda

Rob Doubleday is Executive Director of the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) at the University of Cambridge. The article first appeared in the July 2012 edition of CaSE News.

Ireland’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Cunningham, likes to quote Lord Ritchie-Calder, a science journalist who worked in government during the Second World War. Scientists had played a central role in the war effort, but “having gained access to the corridors of power, scientists could not find their way to the men’s room.”

We’ve come a long way since Ritchie-Calder’s day, however, the question of science’s proper place in government remains. And it has been aired again at the news of Sir Mark Walport’s appointment to be the next Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA). Read More »

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Promoting the return of the polymath

The UK’s schools are not producing enough technologists.  Evidence from sources such as the CBI, DBIS and NESTA reveals that many sectors of UK business and employment are experiencing severe skills shortages which threaten our international competitiveness. Most of these are related to applications of digital technologies.

The new Centre for Innovation in Technological Education (CITTE) aims to change that. It will support schools in strengthening the way technological education is integrated into the curriculum – to develop students’ technical and employability skills. Its approach will promote more positive perceptions of technology in teachers, parents and children – through stimulating, collaborative activities. Read More »

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Rational numbers: an evidence-based National Curriculum?

It’s been an exciting few weeks in the world of education policy. Amidst all the media coverage last week of a possible return to O-level examinations, you could be forgiven for forgetting that a draft national curriculum has now been published for primary schools. Documents for English, mathematics and science are now available to view on the Department for Education’s website to allow for informal consultation.

Reaction so far to the mathematics curriculum has been mixed. The inclusion of Roman numerals has attracted particular attention in the newspapers, along with memorising multiplication tables all the way up to 12 times 12 (CXLIV of course). Whether or not being able to count like the Romans did should be an educational priority is a moot point. Read More »

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Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering

From large scale power and water infrastructure to the nanotechnology and bioengineering that are beginning to enhance our daily lives, the products of engineering are ubiquitous in modern society. This makes it a subject of huge importance to the global economy, and to humanity as a whole.

Yet, we take much of this for granted. It is perhaps time engineering is better acknowledged for its contributions, not only to improving our quality of life, but the contribution that investment in technology and engineering projects  makes to  growth. In 2009, UK industry contributed 21% of the country’s GDP. Although UK engineering is highly successful, it is vital that it maintains its competitive position.

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Science Question Time – Growth

18th June 2012 saw the seventh Science Question Time event, run by CaSE in collaboration with the Biochemical Society and Alice Bell of Imperial College. With ‘Growth’ as the evening’s theme the panel discussed the concept of economic growth, and how science and innovation can help to deliver it.

You listen to the full debate on our SoundCloud page.

Read More »

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Ministry of Defence demotes science

January saw CaSE publish a scorecard, in response to a House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry into Chief Scientific Advisers in Government. This scorecard, and the narrative that went with it, assessed the degree of independent scientific advice provided to Government departments. Read More »

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Innovation – a problem for British universities?

“BACK in the 1970s, as biochemist at Liverpool University, I was fairly certain that none of my colleagues knew the meaning of innovation. Scientists were ‘supposed’ to study science – not invent, patent, or take products into the marketplace.

As for control of Intellectual Property – well, there was none. Research discoveries were reported on an ad hoc basis to a senior administrator. He and his committee would decide what, if anything, to do with an invention.

The ‘innovation’ process was foreign and, I suspect, somewhat distasteful to the academics in my department – if not throughout academia. For example, I and a colleague invented the ‘Backfriend’ orthopaedic support. We funded the start of a company (Medesign) ourselves without any support from the university. Read More »

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Research Funding – how do we stack up internationally?


After the recent budget it’s clear (if it were ever in doubt) that the government is casting its lot with ‘business as usual’, rather than science and engineering, to stimulate an economic recovery. The “biggest sustained reduction in business tax rates for a generation”, announced in Osborne’s address, far overshadows the £160m for new research investment.

But the status of science and business in UK appropriations is hardly a product of just this Government – or even just this decade. To demonstrate, let’s examine the most recent BIS science, engineering and technology statistics – specifically, the bits on how the UK’s research spending has changed over the years, and how that spending stacks up against other G7 countries (and the UK’s main research competitors). Read More »

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Changes to UK immigration rules


New Immigration Rules took effect on 6 April that will change the way that research centres, universities and other employers recruit workers from outside of Europe.  More changes are due on 14 June 2012.

The extensive set of changes touched on every area of policy for Tier 2 migrants, the ‘skilled worker’ category.  There has been a lot of change, and staff in HR, the individual employees and their recruiting managers could be forgiven for losing track. Read More »

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Engaging with Parliament; A How-to Guide

Introduction – the opportunity of ‘impact’

The forthcoming REF’s increased emphasis on demonstrable ‘impact’ is a source of some concern and confusion for many academics. It is, however, more of an opportunity than a threat in the sense that the Politics and International Relations Panel has clearly signalled its intention to adopt a broad and creative approach to the definition and assessment of ‘impact’. The Panel Criteria and Working Methods that were published in January 2012 also suggest that a softer approach to impact has been adopted than might have previously been expected from some of the initial REF documentation. Read More »

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Are We Running Out of Engineers?

Chris Kirby, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

The media regularly announces a national ‘crisis’ in engineering skills, with substantial numbers of engineers quoted as being needed during a given timeframe.  These headlines are often sparked by shortages in specific sectors, regions and companies. But does this reflect reality?

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Time for a ‘Science of Science Policy’

Dr James Wilsdon is Professor of Science and Democracy at the Science and Technology Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex, and was formerly Director of Science Policy at the Royal Society.

This article is taken from the January 2012 edition of CaSE News.

One sad loss to the world of science in 2011 was John Marburger, the former White House science adviser, who died on 28 July at the age of 70. As the most senior figure in US science administration throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, Marburger was forced at times to tread a delicate line through controversies over climate change and stem cell research. But he was a consistently thoughtful policymaker, celebrated in a Nature obituary for “his demonstrated flair for science, management and public engagement in highly politicized settings”.

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Evidence vs. Ideology: the case for a scientific approach to policy-making

As former Shadow Minister for Science and Innovation, I am acutely aware that scientific research is an indispensable driver of long-term economic growth.  Thankfully, the Coalition Government recognises the importance of the UK science and research in securing future prosperity.  As George Osborne put it in 2010, “Britain is a world leader in scientific research.  And that is vital to our future economic success.” The Chancellor has supported his words with action.  Last year, the Coalition protected the science budget in cash terms.  Given the dire economic circumstances inherited from the previous Government, this was absolutely the best result for UK science.  And this year’s Budget saw further positive news with an additional £100 million capital investment in science and innovation campuses in 2011-12.

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Another look at science graduates

With my professional careers adviser hat on, I would like to add to CaSE Director Imran Khan’s commentary on the ‘Is there a shortage of scientists?’ paper which was published in the British Journal of Educational Studies and picked up by the press recently on the basis of a press release issued by the British Educational Research Association.

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Science Question Time: Higher Education (Pt 2)

Following on from last week’s blog post about Science Question Time, this is the second installment covering more of the issues discussed at the event.

Meeting students’ needs

One of the major currents of discourse about higher education in recent times has been that graduates lack the practical skills to even do entry-level jobs. This applies across different sectors, but the ‘Biochemistry graduate who couldn’t use a pipette’ story (or similar) is frequently brought up as an example. William invited the panel to discuss this, with Athene raising the issue that universities have to train students in even more basic skills first, as school standards aren’t sufficiently high. Scott agreed, and noted that under the new fee regime, even fewer core skills might be taught on cheaper courses.

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Science Question Time: Higher Education (Pt 1)

This is the first of two blog posts on last week’s Science Question Time. The second installment, covering more of the issues discussed at the event, can be found here.

On 24th August, Science Question Time returned to Charles Darwin House for the fourth in this year’s series. A joint venture by the Biochemical Society, the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) and Imperial College London, Science Question Time aims to provide an open platform for debate on key science policy issues. The main panel of five distinguished individuals engage with the audience and each other, creating a forum for discussion.

In the wake of the recent White Paper, the topic was Higher Education, a much discussed area under the coalition and a significant area of concern in the science policy community. Questions were submitted in advance to start the discussion.

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New Questions in Science Policy

Science Question Time – a regular science policy debate/meetup event organised by CaSE, the Biochemical Society and myself – had a guest slot at the Science Online London conference last week.

The format was slightly different from previous SciQT events. We usually take a topic and use a loose question and answer framework to explore it (e.g. education or impact). Here, however, the sense of questioning was turned around, as we invited our panel – Victoria Johnson, Jack Stilgoe, Steven Hill and Beck Smith – to reframe the debate and give us two questions they think science policy should ask. We then asked the audience if they liked those questions, or had new ones of their own.

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Where now for UK pharma?

The pharmaceutical industry (Pharma) has made important contributions to quality of life, longevity, economic growth and education at all levels, and is a key component of the government’s growth strategy. For decades, the UK had been a world leader in medicines discovery and research with at least 10 of the top-selling drugs worldwide (>$1bn annual sales at peak) having UK-trained PhD organic chemists as named inventors. Read More »

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