It’s a pensive time for scientists; the government is preparing for its spending review on 26 June when the science budget from April 2015 onwards will be decided. The consultations are out and evidence is being gathered by members of the scientific community in support for science and its role in driving the UK economy forwards.
The last review, back in October 2010, saw the UK’s Research Base Budget facing a shortfall of £1665 million. However, since this, additional funds totalling £1354m have been announced, reducing the shortfall from £1665m to £311m with two years of this spending review period remaining. In addition to addressing the shortfall in the research capital, the Government has also committed £332m to innovation capital.
But how does this compare with the spending of some of our international contemporaries? The UK is below the G8 average in terms of Government spending on research and development; as a fraction of GDP, the UK’s spend is 0.57%, while the G8 average is 0.79%.
Yet the UK remains a world leader in scientific research with arguably the most productive research base of the world’s leading economies. For example, the UK is a world leader in terms of article and citation output per researcher and per unit of research spending. Furthermore UK researchers have so far claimed over 90 Nobel Prizes.
Our scientists are making discoveries and unearthing new technologies which directly contribute towards economic growth. It has been estimated that nearly 30% of the UK’s GDP is produced by sectors intensive in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Bioscience in particular is vital to the UK economy; a recent valuation of the European knowledge-based bio-economy, in which we are recognised as the key player, indicates it is worth around €2 trillion.
Clearly, scientific research in the UK has a huge impact. Hence it is imperative that the science budget reflects this. To this end, the Biochemical Society is supporting the Science is Vital campaign, which seeks to persuade the government to increase the 2015-16 science budget in line with the G8 average. We also support Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) which is also calling for increased Government spending.
Come the end of June, the fate of the science budget for the next few years will have been decided. Until then, the scientific community is collectively holding its breath…