As part of our most recent campaign, we conducted a survey asking UK scientists (or those who have left is the last few years) about their experiences of doing effective science before and after the 2010 spending review initiated a slow decline in science funding. The results were eye-opening. Today, we’re pleased to publish a report summarizing our rather sobering findings.

We’ve also submitted a copy of this report to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, and will meet with a few of their representatives on 19 June to discuss it.

The Executive Summary is reproduced below, and the full report is available to download, as is the accompanying press release.

Thank you to everyone who contributed! Please note that the survey remains open – we’d like to collect longer-term data. So if you haven’t yet taken part, feel free to add your voice.

“The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) welcomes this report by Science is Vital which vividly illustrates the impact of science funding decisions on those at the bench.

The UK’s skill base is a valuable asset for attracting and retaining inward investment. This report serves as a timely reminder of the ramifications of Treasury decisions for individual scientists in determining whether or not their career paths remain in science and in this country.

CaSE therefore reiterates its call for the Government to establish a long-term framework for investment in science and engineering and to signal its commitment by setting an upward trajectory for investment that will re-establish the UK’s prominence in the global race as the best place in the world to do science.”

– Dr Sarah Main, Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering

Executive Summary

Science is vital for the UK economy, and its health in turn is clearly dependent on government investment. In the Comprehensive Spending Review of 2010, however, the science budget disbursed by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills was frozen, and since then, the cumulative effects of inflation and cuts to capital and departmental spends have significantly eroded science funding overall.

Science is Vital, a grassroots campaigning group with the aim of protecting and championing science in the UK, recently conducted a consultation amongst a wide range of scientists in the UK to determine whether their ability to do effective research had been affected by this decline in funding. We received 868 complete responses from a range of people: from postgraduate students and early-career researchers to fellows, senior professors and former researchers. In collaboration with the British Science Association, we also consulted a focus group of science and engineering students to gauge the mood of future researchers in the current climate.

This exercise uncovered the widespread view that the ability of UK scientists to perform excellent research has been significantly impaired since the 2010 announcement. Our respondents reported:

  • a decrease in the number of grants funded
  • a decrease in money awarded even when grants were funded
  • difficulty in recruiting the necessary staff
  • difficulty in recruiting PhD students
  • difficulty in obtaining necessary equipment or consumables to
    perform research to modern standards
  • a lack of confidence in the trajectory and promise of UK science
    which has led some scientists to abandon their research careers
  • a recognition that higher levels of investment among major UK
    competitors is inducing some researchers to leave the UK.

If the current funding decline is not soon reversed, we risk seriously damaging our research base, with all the knock-on effects to the economy and to industrial interests that this could induce. Therefore we make two recommendations to redress the situation:

  1. A long-term commitment of scientific support by Government, eventually reaching a level of support
    comparable to 0.8% of GDP – the current G8 average. Such a commitment will allow for the long-term planning that is essential for strategic and intelligent scientific research.
  2. In the short term, and with particular regard to the 26 June 2013 budget decision, a reversal of the decline in the UK science budget. A modest increase will be an important signal to the research and business communities that the UK is determined to remain an internationally competitive, knowledge-based economy.
Categories: Campaign, Evidence, Survey

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