New science funding lobby group to march on parliament
Scientists from across the UK are planning a rally in Parliament Square on May 15. In a document seen by PST, the researchers describe how they are planning to lobby against what they see as the EPSRC’s “flawed approach” to funding. The lobby day is thought to be the next stage in the fight scientists are picking with the EPSRC, after publishing an open letter of criticism against the body in January.
The rally will also mark the launch of a new science lobby group, supported by scientists from, among others, Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, UCL, Manchester, Birmingham, and Nottingham. One scientist confirmed as a banner-waver on May 15 is Sir John Cadogan, former president of the Royal Society of Chemistry and the first director general of the Research Councils.
The lobby day has a three-part methodology, if you will. A rally will kick everything off in the morning, then campaigners will stage a photo stunt (details tbc; white coats and goggles?) and then they will meet with their MPs to urge them to write to science minister David Willetts.
More than 90 scientists have signed up to send letters to MPs, asking to meet with them on May 15. The first letters were dispatched last week. Confirmed plans, including numbers of MPs willing to hear from the scientists, will likely trickle out over the coming weeks.
Although the nascent group has little formal structure yet, it is headed for now by Professor Anthony Barrett from Imperial’s chemistry department. Barrett’s involvement signifies just how central to the group will be this fight it picks with the EPSRC. As PST reported last November, chemists are not happy being fortune tellers.
Many scientists would undoubtedly welcome a new lobby group – perhaps to continue the broader based work of Science is Vital, which grew up at the time of the spending review but is now less active. The success of the group, however, may hinge on its success in this crucial battle at the EPSRC.
Parties interested in being involved in the new group or on May 15 should contact Barrett’s PA, Rachael Youren on r.youren (at) imperial (dot) ac (dot) uk. In the meantime, you can be entertained by the correspondence between Willetts and organic chemist Dr Paul Clarke.
The EPSRC has not yet responded to a request for comment. UPDATE: For a statement from the EPSRC, see the comment below.
FURTHER UPDATE: Read how the science policy community is questioning the worth of this new movement.
Image courtesy of Ian Huston.