Public research spending ‘falls below 0.5% of GDP’

Scientists are being urged to lobby MPs and parliamentary candidates to back an increase in the UK’s level of public investment in research

March 13, 2015

The Tell Them Science is Vital campaign, launched on 13 March to coincide with the start of British Science Week, follows analysis by the volunteer-run organisation revealing that the UK’s level of public investment in research slipped to 0.48 per cent of GDP by 2012: the lowest figure for any Group of Eight country in the past 20 years.

The Science is Vital group, set up to campaign for the research budget ahead of the 2010 spending review, has been calling since 2013 for UK science spending to be raised to the average for G8 countries, which was 0.8 per cent in 2011, the last year for which full figures are available.

The group attributes the UK’s low expenditure to the flat-cash settlement for the research budget imposed by the coalition government in 2010, plus significant reductions in research spending by government departments and big cuts to capital expenditure in 2010 that have only partially been compensated for by subsequent additional pledges.

In the 2013 spending round, chancellor George Osborne committed to significant increases in the science capital budget until 2020-21. But Andrew Steele, a researcher at Cancer Research UK and vice-chair of Science is Vital, who carried out the analysis, says this is unlikely to raise the proportion of the UK’s GDP accounted for by research spending above 0.5 per cent.

“With the economy continuing to recover, inflation still eroding the core science budget and no sign of departmental research budget cuts abating, the relatively small increase in investment through additional capital funding seems unlikely to increase investment above 0.5 per cent,” he said.

The UK’s expenditure has declined from a high of 0.6 per cent of GDP in 2009, according to the group’s analysis of data from Unesco’s Institute for Statistics. In 2011, 0.89 per cent of Germany’s GDP was accounted for by public spending on research, in the US the figure was 0.86 per cent, it was 0.82 in France and 0.74 in Russia.

Stephen Curry, a professor of structural biology at Imperial College London and another vice-chair of Science is Vital, said: “The UK research base has a world-class reputation but it has been allowed to decline through the years of austerity.

“We urgently need to reinvest to maintain the quality of the research and training done in the UK, and to be able to face the future with confidence and purpose.”

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations