Safeguarding science's foundations

May 3, 1996

Tony Trinci (THES, April 19) has summarised the problems of the academic science base in no uncertain manner. The system is designed to dissipate almost every act of creativity and innovation. Small, highly-effective centres of excellence have been reorganised with no regard for academic criteria, simply to cut costs and facilitate administration.

Technical and secretarial help has all but disappeared. Inordinate investment of time is necessary to obtain enough grant money to sustain even a modest research group. The few practising scientists that remain (most academics have long ago given up laboratory science because of pressures that result from huge undergraduate numbers) are generous with their leisure hours. A week or two spent in a Scandinavian lab provides a salutary reminder of how easy it is to do quality research with state-of-the-art equipment. Huge cash injections will help halt our decline, but we will never be able to sustain over 100 universities in the United Kingdom.

D. Lloyd, School of pure and applied biology University of Wales, Cardiff

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