Ok, so the state of the UK’s finances is in a bit of a kerfuffle at the moment and Government cutbacks are clearly a necessity – love it or hate it – in order to get us back in the black, but when it was announced that Cameron & Clegg would be tightening their belts in terms of funding for Science, Technology and Engineering, like so many of these public spending cutbacks, it got people’s knickers in a twist. And on this issue, my knickers are also quite twisted. (Urgh, that’s quite a gross image. I do apologise.)
In sympathy with the Science Is Vital movement, I have today signed this petition in support of a campaign to halt the destructive levels of funding cuts to Science education, research and innovation in the UK. Unless you’re directly involved with Science yourself, you probably don’t realise what a huge impact it has on our lives, and you might not care. But you should. New treatments, drugs, surgical procedures and therapies are being developed in laboratories all around the country, many to the point of clinical trials to test their effectiveness and safety. Research into new technologies and alternative energies, which will save our bacon when we’ve greedily used up all the oil, needs funding. The roads, bridges, tunnels, runways and tracks that we travel on every day need expert engineering skills and constant maintenance to ensure that the country doesn’t grind to a bumpy, potholey halt. And at grassroots level, we need skilled, motivating teachers and lecturers to inspire and lead a new generation of scientists into these very professions that keep the country not only running, but leading the race.
As the Science is Vital website declares, “the UK has a proud history of scientific excellence, and produces over 10% of global scientific output with only 1% of the global population”. It was in the UK that steam engines were invented. Charles Darwin, the great evolutionist, was a young lad from Shropshire. British scientists developed the DNA fingerprinting technique used at crime scenes all over the world, and it was here that a large part of the human genome was sequenced, with all its potential of finding cures for cancers and genetic diseases and understanding more about this DNA stuff that makes up our very humanness. Normally, I’m not one who goes in for traditionalism, but I believe that the strong history of scientific leadership in the UK is one that should not be tossed aside. Above all, if cuts are made now, the research projects that are already underway and will have to be scrapped will be a great waste of resources and will severely limit scientific progress, especially progress into areas that will ultimately save the country both money and lives.
The private sector can and does invest heavily in science, technology and engineering, but the majority of research and development is done in public institutions – colleges and universities – where there is high academic skill and knowledge, but already below-average monetary resources compared to the US and other countries in Europe. To slash this funding even further would reduce the UK to a region of scientific standstill. This cannot happen.
If you are in London on the 9th October and fancy waving a placard in support of Science is Vital, please visit the Science is Vital website for more information, and march your feet outside the HM Treasury in support of this worthy campaign. If, like me, you can’t be there (why does London always have all the fun?!) then please sign the petition, write to your local MP and spread the word!
- Join the Science is Vital Facebook group
- Follow @ScienceisVital on Twitter (and use hashtag #scienceisvital)
- Read more about Science is Vital