Tuesday, 12 October 2010

My letter to Rt. Hon. Iain Duncan Smith MP, explaining why #ScienceIsVital

Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition (you have until 1.30pm on Wednesday October 13th to join them) criticising the government's proposed cuts in the science budget - and over 2,000 scientists, medics and engineers came together at the Treasury last Saturday to demonstrate their support for UK science - you can read a round-up of all the bloggers' reports here. As part of the Science Is Vital campaign we've all been asked to write to our MPs expressing our concerns, ahead of today's Lobby of Parliament where activists will hear from MPs from all three main parties as to their stance on science funding.

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to my MP, Conservative Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith.

Dear Mr. Duncan Smith,

I write to you as one of your constituents, and also as a scientist concerned at the large-scale cuts to the UK science budget that have been proposed by the Coalition government.

I would like you to:
- sign EDM 767 – Science is Vital (http://bit.ly/edm767)
- sign the Science is Vital petition –
- and attend a lobby in Parliament on 12 October (15.30, Committee Room 10).

The evidence is clear that investing in research brings a range of economic and social benefits, and that severe cuts at the very moment that our competitor nations are investing more could jeopardize the
future of UK science.

On Saturday October 9th over 2,000 scientists, engineers and doctors came together outside the Treasury to show their concern at cuts that are planned (http://bit.ly/science-cuts-rally). We made very strong statements of support for UK science, but not purely as a special interest lobby that is seeking to protect jobs.

There is clear evidence that public investment in scientific research can be an excellent driver of economic growth, and the contributions that scientific advances have made to society do not need to be recounted here - suffice to say that the quality of life we enjoy today would not be possible without extensive scientific endeavour in the past, nor will we be able to surmount the significant economic, environmental and social challenges we face without a world-class
science in the future.

Indeed, as things stand the UK makes an enormous contribution to scientific knowledge (we are responsible for 14% of the world's top citations) on a shoestring budget that is just 0.55% of GDP - significantly less than the amount spent on research in most other developed nations.

We understand that the government's finances are not healthy, but in attempting to remedy the deficit by cutting investment in a way that puts at risk one of the most vital sources of growth and prosperity, the Government's strategy has the potential to achieve the opposite.

We must not forget that a dangerous dependence on a volatile financial services sector for growth created the economic crisis we now face; cutting investment in the one sector we must now heavily expand to achieve sustainable, equitable and green growth will simply make our nation's economy more lopsided.

The Science is Vital [http://scienceisvital.org.uk/] coalition, along with the Campaign for Science and Engineering [http://www.sciencecampaign.org.uk], are therefore calling upon the Government to set out a supportive strategy, including public investment goals above or at least in step with economic growth. Without such investment and commitment the UK risks its international reputation, its market share of high-tech manufacturing and services, the ability to respond to urgent and long-term national scientific challenges, and the economic recovery.

I have signed the petition at
http://scienceisvital.org.uk/sign-the-petition/. I hope to speak toyou in person about this on 12 October, where many scientists will aim to remind those in Westminster that the economic future of our country depends on a well-funded and well-supported scientific base.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


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