Government axe must not fall on science, says chemistry chief


10 July 2009

If  there is truth in reports that the Treasury is instructing funding agencies in the university sector to plan for a 'worst-case' 20% budget cut, it would be a doomsday scenario for the UK science, says the Royal Society of Chemistry.

This would happen, says the RSC, at the very same time that President Obama has set science as centre-stage in the US, with a massive financial injection to boost research and development (R&D) to almost twice that of the UK, as a proportion of GDP.

Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry said today: "Unless UK science is shielded from this reduction, the country would not be able to address the energy, climate change, water, health and overall sustainability challenges ahead. Worse still, the most able scientists would join the 'brain drain' across the Atlantic, and leave the nation even more vulnerable to industrial and societal decline.

"Now is the time for bold decisions to set clear priorities, and recognise that there cannot be merely proportionate cuts across the board; there will have to be winners and losers, and changes in attitudes and behaviour. Science must talk itself up to the top of the pile. The nightmare of lights going out over Britain will, ultimately with hindsight, be seen as merely a sweet dream by our grandchildren, if it does not. 

"In the US, expenditure on R&D will rise to 3% of GDP compared with the current rate of 1.8% in the UK. Any further decline here would send an extraordinarily negative signal to the science community, both domestically and internationally, and raise doubts over the delivery of the country from the current recession."

Dr Pike said that the RSC's campaigns on science funding, and the role of chemistry, made it a particular focus for insider comments from those concerned about the future of both teaching and research in this country, and this most recent revelation shows how important are the stakes in determining the country's future.

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