Monday, February 26, 2007

Large cuts in science and engineering research in Britain made by NuLabour.

Just wondering over at my old haunt at Slashdot when I came across this headline "British Government Slashes Scientific Research" .

Hold on a minute I thought - why didn't we hear about that ? No clues over at the dumbed down BBC Science news site - ( yet more surveys of Antarctica and the MOD employing psychics make the headlines there ). A search of the BBC news site revealed nothing - choosing their web option you get this search ...

Which suggests no one else was much interested either. The cuts - as reported on the Research Councils Web site are:

Arts and Humanities Research Council: £5.3 million
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council £6.7 million
Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils £0.5 million
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council £29.0 million
Economic and Social Research Council £3.0 million
Medical Research Council £10.7 million
Natural Environment Research Council £9.7 million
Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council £3.1 million

To my mind the £29.0 million from EPSRC stands out most starkly. Remeber British workers could be about to loose their jobs as we have fallen behind in some areas of materials science ( wait for the EADS Airbus announcment in a few days).

EPSRC are saying:
EPSRC is now assessing the impact that this announcement will have on funding of research and postgraduate training in the engineering and physical sciences in the UK. The forthcoming Council meeting in March will consider options to find the necessary savings and remain within its financial allocation.

Think on this next time you see one of the arts graduates who make up our government going on about high tech jobs and how Britain has to compete against India and China in the future.

It is also a sign of the growing fiscal panic in government at the moment.

Now in fairness I have some strong doubts about how useful much government funded research is - and I have a PhD in Engineering so have some idea of what I'm talking about. But my points are:

1) No mention, that I could find, on the BBC - why ?
2) How does this fit with the public pronouncements of government ?
3) The money is being saved to fund the DTI - why ?

Michael Kenward writes for Science Business a good article here .. extracts below..

Exit stage left Lord Sainsbury, Minister for Science, enter stage right mandarins bearing hatchets. They then wield these to take lumps out of the budget of the Research Councils (RCs).


Not being an expert in bean counting, we can't be sure that we've divined the entrails accurately, but following a link from the Treasury web site we reach a PDF file of Spring Supplementary Estimates 2006-2007 Section 2, Department for Trade and Industry. Within this we see that £27 million went from the science budget for the "Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Directive". Nice irony there. The number is just £2 million shy of the amount taken from the EPSRC, the research council that supports research into electronics and electrical equipment.

Update: [Hat tip to komadori - see comments] The BBC has an article on this from 22nd Feb and it blames the Rover bail out at the DTI. The irony here is that Rover was doomed anyway - but to bribe reassure the electorate just before a general election the government was happy to spend millions of tax payers money. Now they won't get the science and engineering base they were told about at that election.


komadori said...

It is on the BBC website here but has disappeared from the Science/Nature news page already.

Man in a shed said...

Thanks - odd that I couldn't find it with the BBC's own search engine.

There's irony in that the BBC article blames the Rover rescue. As it was a dead venture anyway, but in dropping funding to science and engineering they make getting a replacement unlikely.