Shadow Science Minister Chi Onwurah wants your science funding stories
Shadow Business, Innovation and Skills Minister Chi Onwurah sent an intriguing tweet yesterday, calling for anyone affected by cuts in science funding to send her an email:
Purse String Theory followed up with Onwurah to find out more about the story behind this solicitation. For starters, why now?
“The story is, I’m very interested to show the consequences of the Government’s approach to science funding,” she explained. “The Government claims often they have protected science funding – David Willetts did again last week at a launch event – which sounds very laudable but research has shown it’s going to be a 12 per cent cut in real terms plus huge cuts to capital funding. It can be hard for non-scientists to tell what that means… We won’t name people but it’s important that these experiences be shared.”
Onwurah said these would be used in the run-up to the Government’s budget on 21 March 2012. Though science funding is frozen for the next two years, the Chancellor may include initiatives in the budget that supplement existing spending, such as the recently announced Catapult Centres.
Though funding is frozen, Onwurah’s tweet referred to “cuts”, and she said this is reflective of what scientists are experiencing. “What I hear quite often is ‘cut back’. It’s a real-terms cut when there are rises in other areas,” she said.
Like the business uncertainty created by changeable fiscal policy, Onwurah argues that scientists are hampered by the uncertainty of science spending.
“Labour has a 10-year funding plan – the absolute amount is important but the long-term certainty of funding is also important, and right now we have neither… The current plan for science funding is just until the end of two years’ time – we’d like to see commitment to minimum science funding over the next ten years. What this Government has said is they are not signed up to the Lisbon targets – which is three per cent of GDP – but there’s no indication as to what targets they are signed up to.”
When asked what funding levels a Labour government would set, however, she said the discussion was premature. “We haven’t got all the information and evidence that this Government has got, and we can’t say now what the funding should be in 2015 – but it’s important that there should be a long-term plan.”
Do Onwurah’s observations ring true of your experience in science? Will you be emailing her your story? If so, why not send it to PST too? Leave us a comment, or fill in our contact form – we’d be very interested to hear from you.