Comment »Posted on Tuesday 17 March 2009 at 5:56 pm by Jacob Aron
In Musings, Science Policy

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Dius) is pressing the Treasury to follow in President Obama’s footsteps and promise more money for science. Dius wants an extra £1 billion to be pumped into scientific research, compared to the $21 billion (£15 billion) spent in the US economic stimulus package.

It may be small change compared to the banker’s bailouts, but ministers say without the money Britain will be left behind when it comes to scientific advances as scientists move abroad to countries with better funding. The money would be spent on new research centres, funding more young scientists, and developing new technologies for use in industry.

Various scientific funding bodies have supported the move. Speaking to BBC News, Nick Dusic of the Campaign for Science and Engineering said:

“President Obama has led the way by making investment in science and engineering central to US’s economic recovery and future prosperity.

“If there is going to be an economic stimulus package in the spring budget, science and engineering needs to be a central part of it.”

More money for science is always going to be a good thing in my book, but can we afford it? Well, we’ve spent almost £150 billion bailing out the banks – a fifth of Britain’s GDP. In this new financial landscape £1 billion seems like nothing, and the potential benefits to the economy mean it could pay for itself. New laboratories mean new buildings, new jobs and new opportunities for lucrative technologies.

“Investing in science and engineering would help address the government’s ambition to rebalance the economy,” Mr Dusic said.

“The government could complement boosting the supply of scientists with priming demand for it by facilitating investment in infrastructure projects and venture capital.”

So, will the Chancellor cough up the cash? We’ll have to wait see, as negotiations are ongoing.

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