There are some things that the scientific community are generally agreed on. That we need a stronger voice for science in government, most especially after Brexit, that what government spends on science is still too low (0.49% of GDP compared to the EU average of 0.67%) and that decisions about what research is conducted need to be free from government interference.
But is the new U.K. Higher Education and Research Bill going to deliver all these goals? Unusually the scientific community is divided with Paul Nurse and the Royal Society believing that the bill presents the best chance of achieving some of the changes desperately needed, while others think it poses new risks. A strongly worded leader in Nature this week called on scientists to oppose the bill on the grounds that it opens the door to political interference and called on the scientific community to address the issues in public as well as negotiating behind closed doors.
As the bill makes its way through the Commons and on to the Lords the SMC invited supporters and opponents to brief science journalists on the pros and cons.
Sir Paul Nurse, Director of The Francis Crick Institute, and former President of the Royal Society
Prof. Lord Martin Rees, Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge
Prof. Stephen Curry, Professor of Structural Biology, Imperial College London
Prof. Ottoline Leyser, Director of The Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge