CaSE Lecture on Science and Growth

“It’s essential that the forthcoming Budget sets out a clear framework for science funding well beyond the current spending period, and ideally for a 10-year period.” MP John Denham, Shadow Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills, said at the Campaign for Science and Engineering in the UK (CaSE) Annual Lecture last week.

The lecture entitled ‘Science and Growth’, held at the Royal Institution of Great Britain came after the government’s decision to abandon commitments to a decade long science investment strategy, in favor of a move to short term investment branded ‘short-termism’. Denham warned that following the move ‘there is a real danger of the UK losing its leading position in world science”. The Shadow Secretary went on to emphasise the need for Britain to continue investing in the discipline not only because of its own importance, but for the growth of the economy.

During his speech MP Denham said that British science faced two challenges in the immediate future; to effectively reinstate research in science and engineering as a case for government investment, and ensure that research findings are effectively used.

Despite the governments change in investment strategy Denham remained positive stating “it remains the case that we have real strength in science” and listed some promising figures to come out of Britain:

“We [Britain] are the most productive science nation in the G8, per researcher, per public pound spent; the UK produces 12% of the world’s academic citations, with a 14.4% share of the top 1% most highly-cited papers, ranking second only to the USA; … first degree graduates from STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] subjects increased by 15% between 2002 and 2008; overall, the number PhD graduates also increased by 19% over the same period”.

Accompanying the CaSE lecture, the BIS (UK Department for UK Business, Innovation and Skills) funded National Science and Engineering Week was launched at the 2011 Big Bang Fair in London’s ExCel Centre last Friday. The 10 day programme – which runs until 20th March, is a celebration of science, engineering, and technology aimed to inspire young people to build career in science.