Conference Fragments – Science Funding
On Monday the Green Party of England and Wales kick-started next year’s review of science policy with an excellent fringe session on “Science Funding in an Age of Austerity” with Imran Khan of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE), science writer Frank Swain and Stuart Parkinson of Scientists for Global Responsibility, chaired by the inestimable Dawn Foster. A great line-up of speakers who I hope will be able to offer us some constructive criticism between now and Spring conference in Cardiff.
It’s a nice change to be able to promote something positive about science for once at Green Party conference, after years of defensive action on homoeopathy and stem cells, we’re finally at a stage where I’m proud of the emergency motion we passed, where we’re beginning to put together a position that will attract votes rather than losing them and funding cuts are almost certainly the issue facing the UK’s science community today.
Science isn’t something you can cut in bad times and pick up again in a few years when times are easier; if funding is cut we lose the whole infrastructure on which our success is based. We lose departments, institutions, students, teachers, post-docs. At every level there will be damage from which it will take years, if not decades to recover. People will go abroad, businesses will invest elsewhere.
Science cuts are a false economy, Imran told us, for every £1 we invest we get back 30p per year in perpetuity. Other countries are investing now, they understand that investing in education is a way out of recession. That now is exactly the time we need more, not less, public investment. If we cut now businesses and researchers will see the trajectory we are taking and go elsewhere.
And we need good science to build the economy we want to see. If we want a zero-carbon economy, a genuinely sustainable economy we’re going to need huge changes to the way we organise everything from transport, to energy, to planning, to agriculture. All across the economy we need to change how we work, and that will require investment and it’ll require knowledge. But more than that, the society we want to live in should be one where we value not just materialistic gains but more esoteric pursuits. A Green economy will have more time for learning, more esteem for basic knowledge, for the fun of investigating the world around us and trying to understand how it works, whether that creates economic benefits or not.
The current government are intent of pursuing policies that show a barbaric disregard for knowledge. On Monday I’m pleased to say the Green Party passed an emergency motion, after a speech from my co-editor Adam even more hyperbolic than this, in defence of universities, opposing all science cuts and pledging to support the union led demonstration on the 10th of November.
Full text of the Emergency Motion
This motion call on conference to defend science funding condemn the coalition’s plans to cut 25% of funding into scientific research, and support the NUS and UCU’s National Demonstration “Fund Our Future: Stop Education Cuts” on Wednesday 10 November 2010 in Central London.
Science is vital to the Green Party’s values in terms of the environment, sustainability for future generations, and expanding human knowledge and understanding. Vince Cable has this week now outlined plans to cut investment in science research by 25% claiming the government will only fund research that is “commercially useful or theoretically outstanding”, a statement that belies the coalition’s obsession with profit, and misunderstanding of the processes and outcomes of science. A 2010 OECD report stated that: “Governments must continue to invest in future sources of growth, such as education , infrastructure and research. Cutting back public investment in support of innovation may provide short-term fiscal relief, but will damage the foundations of long-term growth”.Under these proposals, the great breakthroughs of the 20th century would never have happened. The Green Party should oppose any cuts in science funding, and support the National Demonstration against cuts in education, organised by NUS and UCU.
Proposed by: Dawn Foster, Alasdair Thompson, Kit Jones, Adam Ramsay.