By Gabriele Butkute, POLICY ASSISTANT
Ahead of the publication of the Comprehensive Spending Review in late November, leaders of the science and engineering community are making a call for an increase in sustainable and strategic science funding, as the Government departments are asked to make cuts that range from 25% to 40% of their budgets.
Research funding has always been a tough and sensitive topic, one that needs attention now more than ever. “Science is an investment”, many politicians say, and the science community couldn’t agree more. There is compelling data which makes it hard to ignore the fact that more funding is needed if the UK wants to remain a world leader in scientific research and innovation.
The bottom line is that more research funding is needed to keep up with the fast pace shown by other nations. Targeted funding is needed to tackle research into diseases such as cancer, and there is also a need for ‘blue sky’ research, where applications might not be immediately apparent. It would be a mistake to close that door and in doing so put the brakes on innovation. Researchers in the UK are very efficient – we comprise only around 4% of global researchers but we produce almost 16% of the most highly cited academic articles.
Commenting on this issue, Professor Stephen Busby, Chair of the Biochemical Society, said:
“UK molecular bioscience has made an amazing contribution to the UK economy over the past 50 years in various fields, but there is much more to come as the DNA sequence revolution opens the gates to personalised medicine. Hence the business case for further investment is overwhelming and it would be short sighted to reduce investment at this stage.
£1 billion real-term shortfall in investment in the UK research base has accumulated over the last 5 years and an increase in investment is needed to reverse it. This shortfall will be over £2.3 billion by the 2020 general election if current government spending policy continues. Having the lowest GDP spending on science among the G8 nations and being threatened with further cuts poses a real challenge to the UK as a world leader in science.
We urge the Government to realise the value of the UK science sector and provide it with sustainable financial support so that we make the best out of the talent in the UK and remain a world leader in science.”