Science freeze less than feared, but concern for future

20 October 2010

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) welcomes the Government's decision to prioritise science in the Spending Review, because protecting the research budget is vital to reviving the UK's economy.

RSC chief executive Richard Pike said today: "This is the best scenario in the current challenging circumstances.

"But we still risk falling behind internationally in science in this economic environment. When times allow, we need to increase funding considerably to stay competitive. Although a budgetary freeze has been announced, in reality this is a cut over time, when inflation is taken into account.

"A major risk ahead is that annual funding for science research includes a component called Full Economic Costing (FEC), which is intended to cover the purchase of equipment, including replacement.

"But universities are so pressed for funds that this allocation is already being used to support teaching. Our concern would be that although science funding has been frozen, the real term effect of this over four years will mean universities won't be able to afford to replace equipment and fewer research projects will be ultimately funded. 

"We and other science organisations asked the government ahead of the review to value science and they have heeded this message. We appreciate that science has fared better than many areas, which shows the Government understands just how important science is to our country's immediate and long-term prosperity.

Also speaking mid-afternoon today in a meeting room at the House of Commons will be RSC President David Phillips and Bill Bryson, hosting jointly a group of school pupils who have won categories in the society's annual Bill Bryson Science Prizes.

Professor Phillips of Imperial College, a noted research scientist with a five-decade career, said today: 

"Like the RSC, Bill Bryson recognises the need to cherish and to nurture the young scientists of tomorrow, in whose hands will be the future prosperity of the country. It is vital that everything is done to ensure that they, and countless others entering higher education, get every opportunity to develop and grow for their own benefit and for the whole country. 

"Funding in teaching, and in research, has to be at appropriate levels so that these youngsters get the chances that their contemporaries do in most countries in the developed world."

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