UK science funding: SGR letters

Summary of SGR letters to the Science Minister, David Willets, and the Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable, regarding possible cuts to UK science spending (early September).

In these letters, SGR made the following main points:

  • The government should not make major cuts to the UK’s civilian public R&D spending, due to the wide range of benefits that it provides for society and the economy.
  • The Ministry of Defence’s R&D budget represents more than a quarter of public spending on R&D, including expenditure on programmes which are of minimal benefit for, or counterproductive to, the UK’s security.
  • The current multi-billion pound redevelopment of the research facilities at the Atomic Weapons Establishment will undermine progress towards multilateral nuclear disarmament, and hence should bear the brunt of any cuts to public R&D spending.
  • A major shift in funding from military R&D to civilian R&D would release more funds to help with tackling problems such as climate change and resource depletion.
  • Some security-related R&D should be expanded, including that which supports:

o   monitoring and verification of arms control and disarmament agreements;

o   trust-building activities between nations and peoples;

o   non-violent conflict resolution;

o   understanding and tackling the roots of conflict and insecurity;

o   transition to sustainable consumption of natural resources; and

o   other peace-building activities.

  • The dependence of scientific research on commercial funding should not be increased due to the growing problems of bias in research results and lack of openness.