Chemistry education still needs better funding in UK
03 November 2006
RSC chief executive Richard Pike made appearances on BBC TV national and satellite news bulletins today to comment on chemistry issues in the light of the Prime Minister's milestone lecture on science in Oxfordshire this morning.
Dr Pike spoke about RSC demands for better funding for chemistry in education and about the need for appropriately qualified teachers.
Tony Blair's statement on science, in Oxford this morning, underlines the reality that chemistry is a vital tool to tackle the challenges that society must now face.
Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: "The Prime Minister's latest remarks about science follows positive comments that he and the Chancellor have previously made about chemistry - the core discipline - which will play a front-line role in overcoming the environmental and economic hurdles ahead.
"Monday's Stern Report on climate change has echoed around the world, carried by its startling forecasts of catastrophe and calls to remedial action. Not so long ago science risked becoming a secondary feature on the national education landscape; now it is regarded, rightly, by the general public as the primary weapon for fighting global warming.
"In presenting the Stern Report earlier this week Tony Blair depicted it as the most important document the Government has commissioned since coming to power and the Royal Society of Chemistry agrees. Nothing can be more crucial to all of us as individuals than the survival of the world's environment and dependant economic infrastructures.
"However," he added, "the Government also has to recognise that as science is at the heart of the climate change struggle there should be an appropriate level of science funding for British universities and schools if scientists of the near future are to be found and inspired."
Without more appropriate, and more urgent, funding of Higher Education the danger of chemistry department closures will remain, said Dr Pike.
He said that the Government must provide more money, and soon, to universities to ensure that vice-chancellors are not tempted to axe chemistry in cost-cutting exercises, as they have, so damagingly, in the past four years.
The RSC a few weeks ago delivered its submission to the Chancellor's next spending review for 2008-10, stressing the need for £1.9 billion for upgrading of schools' science laboratories and an extra
£1 billion to cover the full costs of providing laboratory-based subjects in Higher Education.
The UK chemical science community has been aware for years that its skills and energies were essential for energy conservation and anti global warming measures, reiterating many times the case for support at every level in the UK.
"We have already made a major contribution to the global warming debate with a key seminar on the matter and through a recent report on Sustainable Energy. We will continue to press the need for chemists to be engaged in the efforts to protect and preserve the planet," said Dr Pike.
"Mr Blair's two related statements this week will have, we hope, a galvanising effect on an international scale because climate change does not respect national boundaries.
"All we ask now is that the Government, the Higher Education Funding Council for England and the universities all see the case for supporting school and campus chemistry and make resources available accordingly.
"If such support is not forthcoming future generations might look back and wonder why only words, and not money, were offered at a time of impending environmental crisis."
Richard Pike added: "The Stern Report paralleled global warming to the apocalyptic world wars and depressions of the last century; the RSC asserts that the response from scientists must be equally monumental. We are talking about projects on the scale of landing on the moon and the rebuilding of nations post 1945.
"This will this demonstrate real leadership and provide a great inspiration for youngsters who will see science delivering tangible results for the benefit of mankind. They will want to be part of it and its career opportunities."
Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change
Sir Nicholas Stern is Head of the Government Economics Service and Adviser to the Government on the economics of climate change and development
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