Scientific method 2

December 17, 2009

I would ask the politicians queuing up to criticise University of East Anglia scientists in the wake of the "Climategate" incident to take a long, hard look in the mirror before proceeding further with their ludicrous and hypocritical statements ("Openness can repair Climategate damage", 3 December).

Philosophically, science famously equates with the search for that most nebulous of phenomena, truth. But in practice, after three decades of Thatcherite and pseudo-Thatcherite governments, British science has been transformed into an obsessive and inefficient scramble for money.

Today, a scientist lacking at least one major overhead-rich grant may as well seek new employment, however valuable their contributions. With funding success rates at about 15 per cent and research cash being packaged into smaller numbers of larger grants, competition for resources is far greater than ever before and the market inevitably rules.

Given such intense selection pressure, does anyone truly believe that any successful grant proposal has not at least slightly exaggerated its potential benefits or ignored the occasional "inconvenient truth"?

My dear politicians - if you place so much emphasis for so long on competitive funding and immediate fiscal returns, thereby forcing upon academics similar goals to bankers, you cannot complain if the ethics of banking begin to pervade science.

Richard Bateman, Richmond, Surrey.

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