Brits care more about granny than science
Brits just don’t care much about science. That would be the conclusion drawn by a Martian watching George Osborne’s budget last week, and the public discussion it has inspired since.
PST readers will know that the above screen shots do not constitute a study (but if you’d like to peer review it, comment below!). But it nevertheless reveals plainly that we care more about Osborne’s granny tax than his failure to give science the cash that it needs.
But to those of who recognise the value in science and see £100m extra for university research as paltry, it is disheartening to see our fellow Brits more concerned about who is spending what on what at this very moment than they are about how to spend a little bit now to get a lot later on.
Ben Goldacre tweeted on the day to say the chancellor’s extra £100m for university research is good, but not enough. “Future is built on tech + science,” he said, linking to his argument that how “new stuff” comes from science.
Following Goldacre’s point, we might say that the reason the UK doesn’t invest as much in science as other G7 countries is because we just don’t have the long-term vision needed. The science community has been saying this for years, but it’s an argument that won’t go away. It takes decades for any investment in science to pay off, and that’s a hard sell for a chancellor to make when he’s spending the dosh of people who are watching the pennies today – that’s if said chancellor sees the value in science in the first place, of course.
But while all the attention was on Osborne, science minister David Willetts said something revealing about science funding on budget day last week.
“As part of our drive in bringing together the business, charity and university sectors, this new £100 million investment could bring in upwards of £200 million additional private funding to help stimulate innovation and secure our high-tech future,” Willetts told CaSE.
So there you have it. More than science, more than the electorate, more than your granny, this government loves private business. The strategy behind the £100m is that the Government thinks it will be trebled by industry. Does anyone have any evidence that this has happened in the past or is likely to happen?
It could be that the Government has faith that industry really will treble the latest science spending, or it could be that Osborne and Willetts believe science to be a hard sell, and the argument that industry will pitch in is just damage limitation.