Monday, March 05, 2007

Research fights back

I was pleased to here on Radio 4's Today program the issue of the governments savage cut in science and engineering research being given the time it deserves. I posted on it and complained of its low profile last week - well done Today in bringing it forward - I believe there's one of, or the group, research organisation pushing the complaint now (goof they have to fight back) ! Its Gordon Brown hypocrisy at its most blatant. ( Remember the money concerned, which now needs to be saved from the DTI budget, was used to buy a few extra weeks for Rover to help Labour win the last general election - and I think also to help with the bail out for Nuclear that Labour had to undertake).

Research needs steady funding - not an on off tap. A lot of the people involved do it for the love of the subject and take small salaries - research students work in conditions that no one else in our society would accept and are lucky to get paid - I know I did it for 3 years. They get very little money and some of that is to be taken away from them.

Now strategic change in how we develop research is OK - and must be argued out. I don't think the country uses its money in the best way. But this sort of short termism just guarantees what you are trying to do will fail. ( US Universities will be getting a lot of applications from our brightest and most innovative young Engineers and Scientists - lucky for them, very bad for us. )

Remember this next time you here Brown on competing with India and China.


komadori said...

Describing it as a 'savage cut' is rather an exageration. It is less than the Research Councils' underspend on their budgets this year. Having said that, the carry over of that underspend would already have been included in next year's budgeting, so there'd be some frantic replanning and tweaking of budgets going on. It is the principle of not cutting long-term programmes in favour of short-term political fixes which is the important issue here, rather than the size of the cut.

Man in a shed said...

Komadori - your better informed than I am on this, and the journalists I've been reading, thanks.

My angle here is that research students are often at the money scrapping end of all this. they are often under paid and have to put up with conditions that would be illegal if they were employed and with management styles form supervisors that would send most people to industrial tribunals.

I happen to think there is a lot wrong with UK research, but also worry most that its the postgrads who will get it in the neck.