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On funding and scientific expertise in a democracy

May 3, 2012

Scientists are political, just not very active. That’s one of the contentions that has been put to me recently as I conduct my research for a series of articles that will begin on the Guardian website tomorrow. The series will explore how science gets into parliament, but here I wanted to pick up on the funding implications of scientists not being very active.

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Coming soon: a PST spin-off blog for the Guardian

April 27, 2012

Dear readers,

Coming soon: PST-flavoured articles for The GuardianI’m delighted to announce that I’ll soon be producing a series of articles for the Guardian, covering topics related to, and broader than, those I’ve been focused on here at Purse String Theory.

This means that, as always, I’ll be collecting opinions and stories from the science policy community. I’m very excited about how PST readers and @PSTtweets followers will be able to help.

More news next week!

Part 2: MPs question experts on how to bridge the scientific research commercialisation valley of death

April 27, 2012
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    About to start evidence session 2 of #valleyofdeath inquiry, with the right Anne Glover 😉 #scipolicy
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 04:16:24
  2. Share
    First panel of witnesses here to talk about investing in science and technology #valleyofdeath #scipolicy
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 04:17:45
  3. Share
    Follow @xmalik today for live tweets from the HCSC S&T #valleyofdeath hearing!
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 04:17:58
  4. Share
    @xmalik Indeed – here’s live coverage of the #valleyofdeath hearing is.gd/8ozpym
    Wed, Apr 25 2012 04:21:02
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Activist: “Dissatisfaction has been brewing for a long time”

April 26, 2012

Here’s the latest on the debate over the nascent Science for the Future lobby group and its forthcoming protest against the EPSRC, planned to land in Parliament Square on May 15. The words below constitute a kind of mission statement I received from Professor Stephen Clark, who’s one of the two directors of the new group.

Much of the discussion on your blog seems to revolve around the issue of why we need a new campaigning group. Clearly, the spark that has ignited the current campaign is the EPSRC Capability Shaping exercise, but for many of us involved in forming Science for the Future our dissatisfaction has been brewing for a very long time.

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Purse String Theory Flashback 3: The Battle for Funding

April 26, 2012

Purse String Theory (PST) began in October 2011, one year after the government froze the science budget at £4.6 billion – a real-terms cut of £1.7 billion. We set out to explore the ongoing funding debate among scientists, lobbyists, politicians and academics. In this mini-series of posts, each PST contributor reflects on the journey thus far.

I have spent all these years idly appreciating the fruits of researchers’ labour without a moment’s thought to the battle that they fight to win funding and keep our inspiration alive. Rarely has this battle raged more vociferously, and the spoils of war been more precious, than in this time of austerity. Read more…

Is this new science funding lobby needed beyond May 15?

April 25, 2012

The forthcoming EPSRC protest march on Parliament Square has certainly sparked conversation among the science policy community. And some people are questioning whether the rally on May 15 can lay a firm foundation for the proposed new lobby group behind it, Science For The Future.

“It’s great to see more scientists getting active,” says Jennifer Rohn, the UCL cell biologist who built Science is Vital from the ground up during the government’s spending review. “They seem focused on a sub-discipline of science – [it’s] sometimes good to specialise.”

But not everyone is convinced that a new group has been thought through. “If this new science lobby is just focused on the EPSRC debate,” said SPRU’s James Wilsdon, “it strikes me as a really dumb idea.”

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Purse String Theory Flashback 2: Crossing boundaries

April 25, 2012

Purse String Theory (PST) began in October 2011, one year after the government froze the science budget at £4.6 billion – a real-terms cut of £1.7 billion. We set out to explore the ongoing funding debate among scientists, lobbyists, politicians and academics. In this mini-series of posts, each PST contributor reflects on the journey thus far.

Back when we started Purse String Theory in October, I was uninitiated to the world of UK science funding – a system that I’ve been told is impressively complicated compared to that of other countries. And as a new transplant to the UK, I was still learning the basics of governmental spending and operations. Since then, we contributors have immersed ourselves in the news and debates to do with science funding, taken on areas of specialism within our reporting, and become players in those debates. PST now feels like an ecosystem that grows organically, fed by interactions among us three contributors and the readership we’ve built up.

A few things stand out as interesting lessons learned.

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New science funding lobby group to march on parliament

April 23, 2012
The Science is Vital campaign from 2010. A new science group is set to march parliament next month.

The Science is Vital campaign from 2010. A new science group is set to march parliament next month.

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.

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Purse String Theory Flashback 1: politics and business

April 23, 2012

Purse String Theory (PST) began in October 2011, one year after the government froze the science budget at £4.6 billion – a real-terms cut of £1.7 billion. We set out to explore the ongoing funding debate among scientists, lobbyists, politicians and academics. In this mini-series of posts, each PST contributor reflects on the journey thus far.

When I first started PST I didn’t expect to find much. While the chancellor’s cuts were forcing libraries and daycare centres to close, the science budget was ring-fenced – the scientists were the lucky ones! And yet digging deeper and deeper into the policy world through face-to-face meetings, phone calls and the lively #scipolicy hashtag on Twitter, I’ve realised that science funding is a very rich topic indeed.

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Willetts focuses science on industry while Sarkozy just wants research

April 20, 2012

David WillettsNicolas SarkozyDavid Willetts may form science funding policy as a way of rousing the UK economy, but Nicolas Sarkozy seems happy just to have “world-class research champions”. That is one conclusion to draw from the unscientific analysis below, which posits the top 25 keywords in recent science policy announcements by Willetts against those of the incumbent French president.

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