Science waits on the cash

May 1, 1998

THES reporters assess the impact of Labour's first year of government on higher and further education and unravel how they have sold their policies to the country

A year after taking office, Labour has raised hopes among university scientists and researchers for the future of science - but it has yet to deliver the goods.

With the appointment of John Battle as science minister and Margaret Beckett directly taking an interest in the subject, the importance of science has been stressed, as has science and innovation's central role in wealth creation.

The government has, however, maintained the status quo with the research councils and the Office of Science and Technology within the Department of Trade and Industry to the relief of some who opposed further change and the frustration of others.

But the government has strengthened science advice through a more open Council of Science and Technology, launched a consultation exercise on its Foresight initiative, which identifies what research to target, and strengthened the Joint Research Equipment Initiative.

But what the government has so far failed to address is the question on all scientists' lips - will there be more money to support Britain's crumbling university research infrastructure, to improve the science base, including blue-skies research, and to allow research councils to increase stipends to attract the best young students to research careers?

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has stressed the problems, but for answers we must wait on the comprehensive spending review.

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