UK to get £100m more for science

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SquareRootofBlue
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UK to get £100m more for science

Postby SquareRootofBlue » Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:59 pm UTC

The budget's just been announced and it looks like good news for science in the UK.

Budget's £100m extra for science
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12838102

UK space given boost from Budget
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12833654

Spoiler:
The Chancellor George Osborne has found £100m of new money for science in his Budget.

The bulk of the funds (£80m), which come from the bank levy, will be invested in new research centres at Daresbury, Norwich and Cambridge, he said.

The smaller proportion (£20m) would go to projects at Harwell.

These include investments in new space technologies, and in three new instruments at the Isis neutron source.

Isis is a giant machine that can probe the structure of matter. Scientists exploit its insights to advance a host of new technologies from drug design to improved mobile phones.

Also included in the budget was a promise to address regulatory issues that are deemed to impede science-based industries from maximising their performance.

In the life sciences, Mr Osborne announced a new health research regulatory agency that would aim to simplify and speed up the business of running the clinical trials which are essential to the development of new drugs.

In the space sector, he promised to reform the Outer Space Act, to reduce the costs to British companies and science institutes of launching to, and operating in, orbit.

"Science is one area where Britain already has an advantage over many other countries and it is central to our future as a place to create business, and that is one reason why I protected the science budget from cuts last year," Mr Osborne said during his House of Commons Budget statement.

"I can tell the house that I have been able to find - again from this year's extra bank levy - an additional £100m to invest in new science facilities at the Babraham Research Campus in Cambridge, the Norwich Research Park for environmental and life sciences, the International Space Innovation Centre at Harwell, and the National Science and Innovation Campus at Daresbury."

In his spending review last October, Mr Osborne promised that science funding would be frozen in cash terms over the next four years, but he also made it clear that research councils (the bodies that distribute science funds) would have to absorb cuts of 41% to their capital expenditure. This is the money spent on building, maintenance or equipment.

And the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) said the additional £100m had to be seen in the context of the capital expenditure reductions announced last year.

"We welcome the Chancellor's commitment to making the UK a world-leader for fields including advanced manufacturing and life sciences, funded out of revenue from the bank levy," commented CaSE director Imran Khan. "The extra funding announced today could be a first step on the path to making science and engineering pivotal to growth.

"But labs across the country are going to be struggling to make ends meet following the budget cuts announced last year."

"We have to use the UK's high-tech base to help overturn our nearly trillion-pound debt. If the Chancellor wants to make the most of his new £100m investment, he should invest in science and engineering to the extent that our competitors, including China and Germany, are doing - or risk our economy lagging two steps behind."

Nice to see we're also finally getting some more space investment too.
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Re: UK to get £100m more for science

Postby Adacore » Thu Mar 24, 2011 2:05 pm UTC

Good news, although the cynic in me suspects they've slashed the science budget (for example, funding for university research) by considerably more than £100m, so it's still a net cut.

Have you noticed how almost everything in the budget is being paid for by the bank levy? That just seems... kinda unsustainable to me, but maybe it's not.

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Re: UK to get £100m more for science

Postby Rodion Raskolnikov » Thu Mar 24, 2011 2:27 pm UTC

Everything except the cut in fuel duty , which is being paid for by the North Sea oil companies. I've no problem with us trying to get more money from them, considering the amount that has been made, but I'm not sure this is the way to do it. The oil industry in Aberdeen is shaky as it is at the moment, and this kind of move is hardly going to encourage them to increase their investment.

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Re: UK to get £100m more for science

Postby Technical Ben » Thu Mar 24, 2011 3:36 pm UTC

Adacore wrote:Good news, although the cynic in me suspects they've slashed the science budget (for example, funding for university research) by considerably more than £100m, so it's still a net cut.

Have you noticed how almost everything in the budget is being paid for by the bank levy? That just seems... kinda unsustainable to me, but maybe it's not.

You mean by the billions that were "leant" to them. Might be unsustainable. But it's seen as money owed.
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Re: UK to get £100m more for science

Postby Game_boy » Fri Mar 25, 2011 1:18 pm UTC

@Adacore

Correct. I suspect this money is being given to existing projects that had their money taken away in the very hasty initial cuts. I can't find any mention of it going to new projects.

The UK budget is all about headline grabbing but no money being spent. The headline was "1p/L cut in fuel duty". But it's to be paid for by a multi-billion pound levy on oil companies. Of course they will pass the expense on immediately to fuel prices, and indeed there was no visible change in pump fuel prices the day the cut went into effect.
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Re: UK to get £100m more for science

Postby Deep_Thought » Fri Mar 25, 2011 1:26 pm UTC

Happy (well, sad actually) to be proven wrong, but I was under the impression that research council funding had escaped the main force of the cuts and was just frozen in cash terms. Yes, that probably corresponds to a real-life cut thanks to inflation, but it's still a lot better than it could have been. The coalition seems moderately keen on science and technology compared to other stuff. Of course, there's still the massive hangover in the STFC budget to sort out :(

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Re: UK to get £100m more for science

Postby Jahoclave » Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:30 pm UTC

Hey Brits. Be glad you get to have science. :''''''(

I is can stays on your island pleeze?

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Re: UK to get £100m more for science

Postby Game_boy » Fri Mar 25, 2011 2:38 pm UTC

Deep_Thought wrote:Happy (well, sad actually) to be proven wrong, but I was under the impression that research council funding had escaped the main force of the cuts and was just frozen in cash terms. Yes, that probably corresponds to a real-life cut thanks to inflation, but it's still a lot better than it could have been. The coalition seems moderately keen on science and technology compared to other stuff. Of course, there's still the massive hangover in the STFC budget to sort out :(


If anyone can pin down what this money is being spent on, I'd love to be proven wrong.

Also I think the large cuts to university funding (which I doubt will be made back entirely with the fees increase especially as they have said they are planning further cuts there*) will cause research spending to decrease. Yes, even though the research budget wasn't cut. Universities can't and won't cleanly separate teaching, research and capital funding just because the government deems it so, as they are done by the same physical people and offices.

*Clever government ruse as follows:

1. Cut university budgets and announce £9k tuition fee cap
2. Universities calculate they need all of the £9k to make back the loss
3. Government's all like "you can't all charge £9k, we budgeted for £7.5k on average and there's no way we could have known everyone would charge the maximum even though the exact same thing happened when £3k fees were introduced"
4. Government uses the above to justify further cuts to the budget.

That way they look reasonable while actually having planned all of that long ago.
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Re: UK to get £100m more for science

Postby Deep_Thought » Sat Mar 26, 2011 1:29 pm UTC

Yes, that plan sounds about right, although you missed the bit where Nick Clegg gets to harp on about "ensuring fair access for all" (See other threads on here). The Guardian has just published a list of universities who have announced their fees. So far only 2 are charging below £9k, both are still above £6k, and I hadn't heard of either before. Quelle surprise...

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Re: UK to get £100m more for science

Postby Angua » Sat Mar 26, 2011 1:49 pm UTC

Yeah, the government blatantly knew what was going to happen, and delaying the white paper is obvious - they say they can't do anything until they know what the universities are doing, and so the universities are having to go blind. It makes me so annoyed.
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Re: UK to get £100m more for science

Postby seladore » Wed Apr 06, 2011 7:19 pm UTC

Also, you've got to look at how the funding is to be distributed. They are trying to shift away from 'blue skies' research into things with direct application.

So good news if you're developing meta-materials that they think will pay off in 2 years time. Bad news if you're a theorist who is exploring stuff that might revolutionise the field in 50 years.

This is a terrible move for UK science. We are essentially hamstringing ourselves for the long-term.

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Re: UK to get £100m more for science

Postby Deep_Thought » Wed Apr 06, 2011 9:46 pm UTC

seladore wrote:Also, you've got to look at how the funding is to be distributed. They are trying to shift away from 'blue skies' research into things with direct application.

So good news if you're developing meta-materials that they think will pay off in 2 years time. Bad news if you're a theorist who is exploring stuff that might revolutionise the field in 50 years.

This is a terrible move for UK science. We are essentially hamstringing ourselves for the long-term.

Do you have any specifics on this? As long as basic research is still being supported I'm not averse to the Government trying to also fund projects that have direct application. Academic independence is terribly important but I don't see what the fundamental problem is with society saying "This problem needs fixing. We want clever people to fix it." Is it just a case of, justifiably, not trusting Government to pick the right topics? Or is this more of a slippery slope towards shackling researchers issue?


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