'Devolution will affect how science is done'

April 30, 1999

The Welsh Assembly could take the lead in attracting top scientists to Wales by financing personal university chairs, says Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party.

The Conservatives in Wales want to establish a new national science competition, similar to the National Eisteddfod, to inject fresh enthusiasm into science.

The main parties' ideas for science in Wales and Scotland have been collected by science pressure group Save British Science in advance of next month's elections. It is sending the parties' plans to 2,500 scientists in Scotland and Wales. "We think devolution is going to affect the way science is done," said Peter Cotgreave, SBS director. "At present, it seems to us that very few people in very few organisations have given any serious thought to how devolution will change things and whether it will be desirable for the science base."

Exceptions are the Royal Societies of London and Edinburgh, which last week published a paper on devolution and science.

The Conservatives have reservations about the idea of a chief scientist for Wales, pointing out that such an adviser would have to be paid for from a limited budget and would be unlikely to disagree seriously with the United Kingdom's chief scientist.

In Scotland, the Liberal Democrats plan to spend 0.4 per cent of gross domestic product on the science base. They pledge to replace a large proportion of short-term contracts in universities with longer-term ones to improve young scientists' career prospects.

"I think it is interesting that almost none of the parties was able to simply send me a document on their science policy," Dr Cotgreave said.

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