Scienceogram UK

Making sense of science spending

The Science Budget Inquiry

With the Comprehensive Spending Review now just around the corner, the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee is rapidly conducting an inquiry into public investment in research to report before the review takes place.

The Committee has heard from a huge range of organisations and individuals concerned about the state of research funding in the UK. The overarching message is fairly clear: as Professor Brian Cox put it when giving evidence to the Committee, ‘If there’s another flat cash settlement then, realistically, it’s dire.’

Cox’s grim words are borne out by the numbers. This graph, which we wrote about recently, shows what’s happened to the Science Budget since 2010, and what will happen if the flat cash settlement continues.

Science Budget 2010–20, 2015 edition

What’s even more worrying is that the government is threatening science with further 25–40% cuts on top of the huge falls seen here. Needless to say, this would be catastrophic for UK research.

Scienceogram also submitted written evidence to the committee, hitting on another key theme of the inqury. As Research Fortnight put it when summarising the submissions received, ‘Data on government departmental spending on research is inconsistent, opaque and incomplete.’

We argue that the government needs to have a much more wide-ranging debate on science funding, based on solid statistics about the amount of money invested in research, and context-setting figures from society and the wider economy.

We spend pence per person per year researching some of world’s biggest killers, or a handful of pounds each researching new energy technologies against a background of several thousand pounds per person spent on energy (check out our in-depth pages about health and energy for the full numbers). Drawing these kinds of comparisons in greater detail would allow us to have a robust, wide-ranging discussion about how much we spend on science, involving parliamentarians, policymakers and the public.

Given the figures which you can find all around the Scienceogram site, this would recommend an ambitious upward trajectory for UK research funding, not the managed decline for science which the government is currently planning.

The full text of our submission is available here. (And thanks again for the comments and suggestions received after we asked for help with this submission last month!) You can also check out all the written submissions to the inquiry on the House of Commons website.

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