I first wrote about the impending draconian cuts to the UK science budgets back in July. Since that time, the situation has not improved very much. Many scientists, and others, have banded together to fight the situation through the Campaign for Science & Engineering. CaSE is funded by its individual and organisational members. For what it is worth, even though I am a US-based (some-what over-the hill) scientist, I have made a donation and joined. You should consider doing so also.
I fear for my paternal homeland. This causes me pain, not just to see such a great land risk the future of its people, but honestly I have always been drawn to the land near the River Avon in Somerset and Wiltshire - perhaps is just in my genes — and from time-to-time have given thought to resettlement. With the likely future state of the UK that will arise because of the expected extreme cuts in funding to support science and higher education, will the beautiful land be able to even support the people who live there now? Will resettlement be an option or a desire when the time for serious consideration comes around?
The current path may well result in large numbers of trained scientists leaving the UK for the US, for France, for Germany, for Sweden and other countries that are not making such cuts to pursue work. There are signs that some young scientists are already leaving the UK. There has always been an exchange of scientist between the western, and even some of the eastern and southern, world’s scientific institutions. But if work is not available, the exchange becomes a net loss. These young scientists are a multi-year investment made by society. Once they become established in another country, and have built a research program, it will prove very hard to attract them back.
Just how many young UK persons will be motivated to undertake the years of study necessary to become scientists when they see that in order to find employment they must leave the country? Of course, with the tremendous rising cost of higher education to student only the children of the extremely wealthy will be able to make the choice in the first place.
It is a very dangerous down-ward spiral the current UK government is headed down. Companies and charities that spend billions of pounds on research and development in the UK have said it is not their job to fill the gaps in university funding that will be left if the government’s proposed cuts to the science budget go ahead. In the short-term, there will be savings of the expenditure of funds to science and university budgets. In the long-term, there will be the loss of tax revenue many, many times more than short-term savings from the loss of business base and the related jobs.
It is my true hope that the UK does not go down the path it appears to be headed. Once down that path, it is a very long climb out.
For now the US is not headed in this direction, but we could be. The Tea Party and some element of the Republican Party would cut government funding for all but a very few programs.
Remember, Science is vital.
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