FAQ: Facebook asks questions
Facebookers may have noticed that the Scienceogram’s government spending graphic was featured on I F**king Love Science, a science fan page with nearly five million ‘likes’.
As well as thousands of likes and shares, the image received hundreds of comments. We decided to wade through them, answer some of the common queries, and highlight a few interesting observations.
Andrew Michael Mackay this is still £160 per person, so erm multiply that amount by 63 million before you all get too hypocritical!
Nathan Wormald So About £10,000,000,000 on scientific advancement per year. That’s quite a bit.
Looking at these numbers per person rather than overall is crucial to the Scienceogram for two reasons: firstly, it brings unintelligible billions down to a scale we’re all used to, and, secondly, it allows us to compare between countries with different populations. For a full explanation, see our blog post ‘Why do we need the Scienceogram?’
Tom Harper £5 per person on energy research is laughable. i spend more than that on toy cars every year. i would happily spend a lot more on it.
Indeed, looking at these figures per person allows exactly these kinds of comparisons with your personal spending, and shows that spending more on science could be very cheap per person. We were unable to find any specific figures for the size of the UK toy car market, however!
Kelly Mufc Reeves oh yeah and what does “other” go to????
Tamer Ziady wtf is OTHER….LOL….
Jérémie Giñar What’s in that “other” section, it’s the second largest and the graph doesn’t give any details. Politicians’ salaries?
Jason Bonner 2nd – other? wtf is that when its at home?!
By far the most common observation was that we’d included a large miscellaneous ‘other’ category, coming in at £3500 per person per year, including all items of government spending not explicitly mentioned in the graphic—and there were only five! This category includes everything from parks to policing, collecting rubbish to building roads. Indeed, a few pounds per person per year even go on running parliament, including politicians’ salaries. To go into more depth would make this a pretty massive infographic…and, in fact, we’ve made one. Our Cashogram infographic goes into a lot more depth with government and personal spending, and indeed inspired the Scienceogram in the first place. There’s also a breakdown of UK public spending compiled by the Guardian—it’s not divided up per capita, but it’s still worth a look.
George Whitworth for all the people who are bothered by the pensions and benefits figure, its worth bearing in mind that around 60% of our welfare bill goes on the over 60’s. That’s what reading the daily mail and the sun wont tell you.
The annual pensions bill for the UK is a little over £1300 per person, which is a good third of the ‘social protection’ budget. Winter fuel is another £50. There are other benefits that advantage the elderly in less direct ways too. Another common misconception about benefits is that fraud is rife: in fact, benefit fraud and error is estimated by the government to cost approximately £54 per person per year; some 2% of overall benefit expenditure.
Jamima Ford sorry but urm who paid £11,000 on taxes last year?!?!!?
Ian Wells Look at your payslip and if you’re not paying £11K in tax, you should go hug a banker. You’re welcome.
Tim Charters Lady in charge of IFLS, could you produce one of these, but instead of the 63M population number (including children, etc) can you please use the number of income earners instead? I can’t find that number easily online, but then I’m rubbish at finding anything online really…
If you earn the average salary, these figures are actually pretty close to what you pay in tax. Firstly, don’t forget that you pay quite a bit of ‘indirect tax’: things like VAT, fuel duty, and so on. Once you take this into account, the whole-population figure is approximately the same as that per taxpayer: if you earn the median salary of £19,600, your taxes plus the per capita deficit makes a total of £9900; within 10% of the £11,000 per capita figure.
In the end, it’s just simpler to use a straight per capita figure—especially since, for many people, this number will be about the same anyway. There’s a full explanation at the bottom of the government spending page.
Andy Pogmore pity governments can’t lay their manifesto’s out in such a concise way, then people might actually know what they’re voting for.
We agree! Though science funding is definitely the most shocking item when you look at the budget in pounds per person, we’d like to see more politicians and news outlets using figures on this scale where they can make sense. More graphs and numbers in politics would be a great thing to see: this graph, from the 2010 UK General Election, shows that, in spite of fierce rhetorical differences, the three main parties’ spending and taxation plans were actually remarkably similar. It would be great if politicians could lay out their plans more clearly for voters.
Andrew William Pratt To provide a comparison to the 1.5% figure; Global brand 3M have a blanket policy of reinvesting 7% of their turnover into R&D to ensure they constantly reinvent themselves and bring through a new stream of products to market to try to ensure their longevity.
This is an interesting idea—whilst there are obviously limitations to the analogy between high-tech companies and countries, this might provide one way of trying to come up with a sensible level of investment in research.
Christian W. Peck If anyone believes government will generate real scientific innovations more cheaply than a profit-incentivized private sector, they are delusional.
Chris Johnson Because the private sector doesn’t drive new discovery, that tends to be done at an academic level where the ultimate goal is curiosity, not application. Private sector is driven by profit, they don’t invest if the it’s not an application. But what do you apply if not for scientists discovering bits of the understanding of the world? You need both sides of the coin. The MRI wasnt discovered because someone thought its be good for medicine. The properties were discovered when a physicist was interested in similar phenomena in the cosmos. Without that curiosity, medicine would still be primitive by comparison. And no application was planned at the time.
Tom Sender Chris Johnson – that is so untrue. profit drives innovation and discovery. the car was not invented in the academic world but by private people, neither was the TV, Radio, Computer, Telephone. most inventions, innovations, medicine and most of all applications (not apps, applications of knowledge to create a product) were done by the private sector. its great that Relativity was discovered by Einstein and researched in the academy, but nuclear plants and nuclear weapons were invented outside the academy.
The public/private debate continues to rage, and we plan to address our reasons for concentrating on public investment in science in a future blog post. In short, public funding plays a crucial role in research and discovery because much science inherently involves far higher risks than investors are willing to take. The state needs to pick up those projects which have a tiny chance of a huge reward, whilst investors can get a more reliable return on safer, more modest projects. There’s also a vital interplay between the two, with state subsidy underlying much private R&D, and public funding of research signalling a commitment to science and providing trained employees which encourages private firms to invest.
So it’s vital we continue to support state-funded science, but private enterprise has an important role to play too.
Nikolas Porosky Any thing like that for Canada an the states?
Nothing that we know of, but we’re very keen to collaborate with others to create international Scienceograms. Get in touch if you’re interested, or if you’d like some advice on how to get started.