Making a Case for saving science

March 25, 2005

After nearly two decades of noisy campaigning, Save British Science, Britain's oldest science pressure group, announced this week that it would be swapping its plaintive name for something rather more upbeat, writes Anna Fazackerley.

In a move that will doubtless delight Labour spin-doctors, the group was rechristened Campaign for Science and Engineering (Case) at a meeting in Westminster on Monday.

Save British Science was launched in 1986 to voice disgust about the Conservative Government's reduction of scientific research funding in universities.

But Peter Cotgreave, the organisation's director, said that with a strong Labour commitment to research and innovation, young scientists no longer understood what they needed saving from.

He explained: "Rosemary, who is our researcher and the same age as most PhD students, said that people of her age [in their early twenties] can't remember the Thatcherite regime of savage cuts."

But the group refused to concede that British science had been saved. And, in case there was any doubt, the new-look organisation unveiled an agenda for science and engineering policies for the next Parliament - with 66 pages of demands and helpful tips for the incoming government.

Richard Joyner, a retired chemistry professor at Loughborough University and Case's chair, warned that the underfunding of laboratory-based subjects in universities and low academic salaries were serious concerns.

Calling for the Government to find an extra £250 million to boost academic wages, he said: "If we do not attract the best people into our universities, then there is a risk that investment, that has so far largely been in repairing infrastructure, will be wasted."

The agenda dismisses claims that the public is "anti-science", and calls for more lottery funding for science projects, to keep pace with the private charitable donations made for scientific research.

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