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What the Spending Review says about science – and what it doesn’t

October 23, 2011

Scientists and researchers across the UK feared the worse when the coalition government announced plans to publish a Comprehensive Spending Review last year. But their fears were largely misplaced. The chancellor may have slashed budgets in his controversial review – government departments faced an average 19 per cent cut – but he took most by surprise by freezing the budget for science research at £4.6bn.

Here are the key quotes from the Spending Review:

“The Spending Review ensures that the UK remains a world leader in science and research by continuing support for the highest value scientific research, maintaining the cash budget in real terms over the Spending Review period with resource spending of £4.6bn.”

“To support long term growth, the Government will prioritise support for world class science maintaining spending in cash terms. The government will also increase the efficiency of the science budget, saving £324m a year by 2014-15. These efficiency savings will be reinvested in science. A ring-fence will be maintained to ensure continuity of investment in science and research. In addition, £220m will be invested in the construction of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation at St Pancras. The cutting edge Diamond Synchrotron facility in Oxfordshire will receive £69m of public funding over the Spending Review period in partnership with the Wellcome Trust.”

“The Government will seek to drive commercial investment in scientific knowledge by reforming the Higher Education Innovation Fund.”

Later posts on this blog will read between these lines and scrutinise the Government’s decisions and policies regarding science funding. For now, the general questions that we’re interested in asking with regard to UK science funding include:

  • How will this spending freeze, a cut in real terms, affect science in the UK?
  • Will all the necessary science be covered by the £4.6 billion?
  • How will the cuts elsewhere impact science and research?
  • In an increasingly competitive funding environment, to what extent can scientists and the public trust the methods of the research councils?
  • How is science affected by the evolving eligibility criteria of non-governmental grant-making bodies, such as the Wellcome Trust?
2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2011 6:54 pm

    How could we ever know what constitutes “the necessary science”? Necessary for what (and for whose) purposes? And who gets to decide what counts as necessary? I’m not being cynical – these are hardly straightforward questions. How much science does the UK need to do? How much would be enough?

    • November 9, 2011 11:41 pm

      All good questions. The one about purpose is apparently easy to answer. Judging by the government’s priorities in the spending review, science is about what’s valuable to both the economy and the nation’s image. As for who decides, that’s a different matter altogether. But we’d live to hear your thoughts on that based on your experience.

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