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Want more than £4.6 billion? Plan, plot, lobby

November 16, 2011

Sometimes, £4.6 billion just isn’t enough. Most UK scientists agree that the government’s “ring-fenced” science spend is more than expected, but last night they got together to plan how to lobby for more.

£4.6 billion just isn't enough

£4.6 billion just isn't enough

Although funding was not the primary focus of CaSE’s strategy meeting yesterday evening, the topic hogged proceedings. CaSE director Imran Khan said that the session was a chance to step back and look at the organisation’s direction. He even brought in the Times’ science editor Mark Henderson as a keynote speaker to talk about where science sits in politics and society.

As the discussion unfolded, CaSE members tackled immigration, school education, further and higher education, politics and government. But funding was the most pervasive issue: funding for research, funding for universities – even CaSE itself.

Scientists were relieved that their budget was, according to the government, “protected” at £4.6 billion last year. Many may be happy to keep quiet, knowing that funding for their sector largely survived the savage cuts seen elsewhere. But CaSE’s analysis shows that science will actually be £1.7 billion worse off by the end of the spending period.

This means the sector must play down the tempered impact of the current spending round and focus on improving the situation at the next one. As one delegate said: “I don’t think we should keep harping on about funding, but we need to start laying the groundwork for the next spending review.” She asked CaSE to work towards securing a commitment from government that when more money is available, science gets it.

Representatives of the Royal Society, the Institute of Physics, the Biochemical Society and major science universities (full attendee list available here) clearly think funding remains a huge issue. Expect Khan and co to stay on the case. If you have ideas for how to lobby for more science funding in the next spending round, feel free to post them as a comment below.

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