The past week has seen some strong and effective lobbying from the scientific community, naturally worried about some rather dim politician seeing the science budget as being available to plunder, with the next government having to deal with any consequences. It’s therefore good to see various former science ministers, and the Royal Society making high profile interventions and spelling out the link between science and prosperity.
I’m not convinced that the science budget can be ring fenced. Despite what politicians are saying now, the huge black hole in the UK budget needs to be plugged, and for most people science is a very remote and irrelevant thing when compared to rubbish collection or heath care.
But a crisis can also be an opportunity, and as spelled out in last week’s ‘Vision for UK Research‘ report there is also a need to start thinking about science in a different way. In fact we really need to look at the whole process of scientific innovation from primary education to technology funding. Long term, sustained and focussed funding is required, but getting the message across to the non science community is very difficult.
Perhaps the most frightening chart in the Royal Society report is this one. If we don’t have any qualified maths and science teachers then where are the researchers of the future to come from?