The financial meltdown that we have witnessed in the past couple of years is nothing new, we have all heard about it in one way or another. It would be great to say that we have seen the worst of it, unfortunately that is not the case. We only have to take a look at the huge budget deficits that many countries around the world are facing in order to realise the sort of storm that is gathering.
The French government plans to cut civil service staff levels and do away with some tax breaks to try to close its budget deficit. In the case of Germany the forecast has been slashed thanks to a strong growth recovery. In the UK, the government is trying to implement a 25% cut across the board. There is no doubt that a spending review is in order, but you would hope that there is a bit of thinking about the repercussions that certain cuts might have.
A point in case is that of science, as I argued in a previous post, for a country to have a a strong economic growth and a high level of human development it is important to investment in science, technology and innovation. It is encouraging to see that this is not lost in some countries such as France or India. In the case of France, the Ministry of Science and Higher Education has escaped the axe, whereas in the case of India, the government is raising the expenditure in Research and Development. What is the UK government doing in this area? Well, it plans to go ahead with the cuts…
According to the UK’s Research Councils, a cut in £1 billion in the amount of funding they can provide for scientific research would lead to a fall in GDP of more than £10 billion. This figure alone shows that investing in the scientific endeavour, and thus in education, plays a very important part in economic growth at a long-term. The main problem is the fact that cutting the budget for science might provide a very short-term solution to the deficit, however the repercussions will be with us for a long time. Scientific development and innovation is not something that can be turned on and off at will. There have been suggestions that the UK is facing a major brain drain as a result of these cuts. In a nutshell, cutting the science budget is a crass error; it will reduce capacity, and weaken the attraction that the country has as a destination for foreign scientists as well as hinder the innovation needed to stimulate industry. The situation is all the more serious since the UK’s major competitors have opted to increase scientific investment.
Scientists in the UK have started a campaign, Science is Vital, which is supported by a number of very eminent scientists and organisations . There is a petition to sign, and if you haven’t signed it, I would urge you to do so. Also, on Saturday 9th of October there was a rally at the Treasury and you can have a look at some pictures here.
SCIENCE IS DEFINITELY VITAL!
- UK scientists protest against expected research cuts (reuters.com)
- Scientists hold protest over cuts (bbc.co.uk)
- Science is Vital (guardian.co.uk)
- How vital is science? (nature.com)
- Science funding cuts: We won’t fill the gaps, say firms and charities (guardian.co.uk)