Grass-roots science lobbying organisation Science is Vital has written an open letter to Jo Johnson, the new universities and science minister, urging him to reverse the real-terms decline in the science budget.
The group, which was established to campaign for the science budget ahead of the 2010 spending review, applauds the government’s commitment to maintaining science capital spending at £1.1 billion in real terms until 2020-21, but expresses concern that the Conservative Party manifesto contains no commitment on the resource budget.
It notes that since being frozen in 2010, the budget has lost 15 per cent of its value in real terms, and it calls on Mr Johnson to up the UK’s current spend on science from less than 0.5 per cent of GDP to the G8 average of 0.8 per cent.
“Creating and maintaining facilities with insufficient funding to operate them at full capacity (as is the current situation with the ISIS neutron and muon source in Oxfordshire) is far from optimal. Without a healthy and sustained core budget, UK scientists will find it difficult to sustain the vitality of British science,” it says.
The letter also contains seven examples of important recent UK research, suggested by Science is Vital supporters, aimed at illustrating to Mr Johnson “the tremendous breadth and depth of UK science”. On hearing of Mr Johnson’s appointment last month, his father, Stanley, told a radio phone-in: “Good heavens. I don’t think he knows anything about science.”
The letter comes just a day after immediate cuts of £450 million were announced for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Although its ring fence is expected to prevent the science budget from being raided, the Conservatives have made no commitment to maintaining the ring fence beyond the end of the 2015-16 financial year, and unprotected departments such as BIS will have to absorb total cuts of £30 billion by 2018-19.