Future science outlined for Brown

February 27, 2004

The government's seven research councils have told Treasury officials how their research is likely to develop over the next ten years in response to the long-term science review announced by the chancellor last month.

Gordon Brown told a meeting at the end of January that the government had decided "to make a long-term plan for science funding over the next decade a central feature of our 2004 spending review".

The announcement surprised government officials outside the Treasury even though the review will set investment plans for science for the next decade.

The seven research councils have spent months putting together bids for the 2004 government spending review, outlining the areas of research that most deserve an injection of cash over the three-year funding period.

But whether the ten-year submissions, put together over recent weeks, will replace the initial spending review bids remains to be seen.

Julia Goodfellow, chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, told The Times Higher : "We are not yet sure of the details of precisely how it will work. But one hopes that it (the science review) will contain the acknowledgement that science is important for the economy."

The aim of the science review, Mr Brown said, is to make the UK "the best location for research and development and for innovation".

The last spending review settlement gave a considerable boost to science, with an average annual increase of 10 per cent for science funding, taking the overall budget to almost £3 billion by 2005-06.

But with all government departments being told to expect cuts, the research councils had been bracing themselves for a less positive result in this July's spending review. Professor Goodfellow said the councils were unsure whether Mr Brown's remarks meant science would be singled out for a significant bonus.

She said: "I honestly don't know. The government has a very good track record in science, so it would be odd if it were suddenly to drop science as a priority."

She added: "It is not just about new science funding, but also money for sustainability. Are we going to put more money into salaries for scientists?"

The Research Councils UK strategy group met on Wednesday to discuss possible outcomes of the spending review.

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