Debating UK Science, Live and on the Net

Many different strands of the discussion of the UK science budget are coming together, starting with last week’s announcement of STFC’s restructuring. This week the Royal Society released its report, “The Scientific Century: securing our future prosperity”, arguing that this is a crucial time to emphasize and invest in science, rather than pull away from it. “Science is one of the jewels in our crown but it yields its dividends over decades.” (I believe that the US National Academy of Sciences has said similar things in the past, even more strongly, but I haven’t been able to find the appropriate document.) Even the Conservatives say they want to increase the science budget, endorsing a report from vacuum-cleaner entrepreneur James Dyson (although it is clear that they are even more focused on economic “impact” than Labour).

The parties also engaged in the continuing Science Debate (trending at #scivote on Twitter). Lord Drayson, the Science Minister, tweeted to Manchester Prof, ex-popstar and BBC presenter Brian Cox, who is becoming a very effective media spokesperson for science, “I believe that under Labour, the UK will be the best place in world to do science. Up to us to convince u during election.” I should also say that Drayson, although I don’t always agree with him or trust his electioneering promises, ought to be commended for his openness on Twitter and elsewhere. He is currently canvassing his Twitter followers for ideas for Labour’s “Science manifesto”. Remind him that blue-skies research (such as cosmology — full disclosure, I am not a disinterested observer) pays off — intellectually, culturally, and yes, maybe even financially, in the end.