Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Science funding in the UK, past present and future?

This week saw the publication of the eagerly awaited "Independent Review of the UK Research Councils" by Sir Paul Nurse (Read his Biography here). You can access the document and supplementary information here. The purpose of such reviews and reports is to take stock of where we (the UK) are in respect of our "Science" (which is clearly defined right at the start as "knowledge", embracing not only traditionally viewed Science as STEM, for example). I particularly like like the quotation at the start of the document:

In the words of Robert Wilson, Director of the Fermi Lab particle accelerator – when asked by the US Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy whether the accelerator in any way involved the security of the country, he replied, “It only has to do with the respect with which we regard one another … our love of culture….. it has nothing to do directly with defending our country, except to make it worth defending. 

The document gets increasingly specialised as you read through it, but I would urge anyone with an interest in educating young scientists, in the process of learning the ropes at school or University and finally anyone who wants to understand why tax payers should vote for those politicians who wish to support our Science base. 

The first ten pages include the following topics followed by a summary of the recommendations:
  • Guidelines and principles
  • Why do we do research?
  • How do we fund research?
  • The scientific approach
  • How do we decide what to research?
  • What are the best mechanisms for making funding decisions?
  • How science delivers for society 
I don't know about you, but these seem to be existential issues for all of those interested in the future of Science. Why not set up a debate amongst Science students: a great way for Science students to prepare for UCAS interviews?

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