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scientists comment on spending review announcement

Gordon Brown has announced that science education and research will receive a huge boost in government funding. The money will go to refurbishing old laboratories, improving the salaries of junior university scientists, and helping universities to profit from their discoveries.

Dr Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, said:

“I very much welcome the announcements made today by Gordon Brown. At last, the Government is waking up to the fact that money spent on science is money that will create more wealth, more jobs and will contribute to a better understanding of the world and its problems. When the Science and Technology Select Committee investigated science education it became obvious that there are many good examples of best practice out there already. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We need to disseminate best practice and this is why the new National Centre for Excellence in Science Education is such good news. It will stress the importance of better facilities for more interesting lessons, better-paid technicians and smaller class sizes for practical work.

“It is also to be applauded that the Government endorsed the Roberts Report. Extra money for young scientists will lead to better teaching, better research and more knowledge transfer into industry and the wider community. This is a good day, and the beginning of a good decade, for British science.”

John Lawrence, Deputy Chief Executive of the Association for Science Education, said:

“Our concern is in trying to teach science subjects in an exciting way. But that’s very difficult to do if the schools have absolutely dire lab facilities, and it will take a lot of money to get them back up to scratch. The money is very welcome, but it’s not just about buying new equipment – the funds must be used intelligently, to provide an adequate basis of scientific understanding for citizens, as well as laying good foundations for the scientists of tomorrow. Schools are still building labs that simply aren’t up to the job, and we need to ensure that best-practice guides are used when creating new spaces for science teaching.”

Professor Sir Brian Heap, Master of St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, said:

“Many of us have been pressing for attention to these areas for some time and it’s great that the Chancellor has now responded positively to our calls. Hopefully this will help provide even more opportunities to build on our science base and remain in a competitive position, because in a knowledge-based society that is crucial for the future. But it’s important to be absolutely clear whether or not this is new money, and not just a marginal redistribution of existing funds.”

Baroness Greenfield, Director of the Royal Institution and Professor of Pharmacology at Oxford University, said:

“I’m delighted that the government have recognised the problem of salaries in public sector science, especially when the commercial biotech world is presenting such an attractive alternative. No scientist does research to get rich, but they still have mortgages and families to take care of. But it’s important for any salary increases to be across the board, else you end up creating a two-tier system.

“It is also vitally important to send a signal to the general public that the government is putting an appropriate emphasis on the importance of scientific research.”

Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of Save British Science, said:

“All in all, this is genuinely a good settlement for science, but nobody can imagine that SBS will be packing up and going out of business. The underfunding of science over decades has been so severe that, sadly, this kind of significant boost is unlikely to be the last word in science funding.”

Dr Sarah Ball, Director of the Science Council, said:

“The Science Council warmly welcomes the new resources for science announced by Gordon Brown today. In particular we welcome the increase in funds for science education in schools and higher education which appears to respond to the calls made Sir Gareth Roberts, President of the Science Council, in his influential report published earlier this year.”

Mike Brady, Professor of Information Engineering at Oxford University, founding Director Of Mirada Solutions Ltd, a medical image analysis company and non-executive director of Oxford Instruments PLC, said:

“The Government in general and the Chancellor in particular must be congratulated on investing in science, which is the engine of much of our national prosperity and quality of life. In particular I welcome the long overdue support for technology transfer since it’s often the small hi-tech companies that are the dynamo of western societies.”

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