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Science in society – politics, development and social justice.

Science and the comprehensive spending review

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The comprehensive spending review is edging ever nearer, giving off jets of pure austerity1. Behind closed doors ministers are squirming to protect their portfolios while lining up out front like Bolsheviks of the Moscow Trials.

Dewlaps wobble and sabres rattle in the Ministry of Defence. Andrew Mitchell has been jetting off to Washington while the cabinet office siphons off his authority.

The silent majority is fit to burst with pent up indignation; child benefit cuts gravely threaten the sanctity of middle class family life.

All the while whet stones sound on steel and abacus beads skim at the Treasury.

There is something stirring however, quietly people are waking up to the fact that a vital aspect of British society could well be lost forever.

Universities have been making noises and now Science is Vital has taken the direct approach. The incredible intellectual capital built up in this country could well pack up and head overseas.

Newly ascended Royal Society president Lord Rees has been joined by his fellow Nobel laureates Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in appealing against the Government’s plans to nobble Britain’s research prowess.

Even the fictional Home Secretary of Spooks2 knows the intellectual capital of UK’s scientists is perhaps the last thing this country has to shout about.

Joining calls to support scientific research and end the daft moves to cap non-European Union migrants is a perhaps unexpected voice. The Financial Times weekend edition editorialised most eloquently on the need to spare science from the scalpel.

The greater debate on the merits of the slashes being made in the public sector with such alacrity and gay abandon aside, the FT makes a compelling case to keep scientists and their work in Britain.

As most people ought to know, it is what some might call prudent. The benefit blue-sky research could bring to this country is unquantifiable. Applied science joining with business will bring jobs and growth to an economy that must be weaned off an over fondness for the financial sector.

The minds at work in Britain today are evidently top class. The work they produce is worthy of the highest honour it can receive. Research in Britain is regarded as world leading in many fields. Yet the first clinical use of stem cells, a field Britain is meant to excel in, has taken place in America.

The institutions of Britain are fortunate enough to be able to attract some of the best brains the world has to offer. Yet this is a Government seemingly intent on scuppering any hope of building a knowledge based economy. They wish to preclude a financial footing that just might raise us out of this quagmire of the banker’s making.

1) It smells a little like Victorian Britain: child poverty, industrial pollution and hypocrisy

2) A show now entering its ninth series and catastrophically failing to live up to its former glories. This is meant to be the programme’s swansong – when it finally gets cut it’ll be one we can all get behind

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Written by nascenthack

October 12, 2010 at 7:17 pm

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