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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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Science sans frontiers: STEM subjects travel the world

April 19, 2012

Global collaborationThe Brazilian government has pledged $2bn to encourage students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) by launching its Science Without Borders programme.

This initiative will provide undergraduates with scholarships to spend a year studying courses abroad in one of the STEM subjects. The news comes at the same time as our House of Lords is analysing the issues around immigration and STEM in higher education. For more on that debate, see coverage of yesterday’s ministerial evidence hearing by fellow PST blogger Adam Smith. Read more…