Back in 2010 the science community got away without many cuts in its budget. However, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has recently asked departments within the government to model the effects of a 25-40% cut in the science budget by 2020. If this was to occur what are the possible outcomes on the science industry?
Well there will be a lack of funding; this could only mean that the quality of research in the United Kingdom would decline. Historically, Great Britain was a scientific superpower with the likes of Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell and Watson and Crick to name but a few, and it still is a superpower. According to Scientific American the UK are fourth in the world behind the USA, China and Germany when it comes to the output of high-quality science journals.
This means that as a nation we are contributing quite considerably to the advancement of humanity. This is what is at stake when considering these budget cuts. The government are risking a slowdown in the development of new technologies, medicines and discoveries. As it can be seen from the past a reduction in the quality of science leads to a weaker economy (which is of course this Conservative government’s obsession).
Let me be so bold to give an example of the possible effects of this kind of budget cut. I’m talking about the research into nuclear fusion. The world is currently on a knife edge when it comes to preventing global warming. It is inevitable that nuclear fission plants will make their way into society and are likely to provide the majority of the power output for our national grid in the future. But, as it is well documented nuclear fission leaves radioactive waste which is dangerous for generations. Which is why it confuses me to the highest extent why there isn’t more investment going into nuclear fusion (this is because nuclear fusion doesn’t produce dangerous waste).
We spend £1.20 per capita which amounts to £76.92 million on nuclear fusion research. The London Olympics alone cost £9.59 billion. How could a sporting event cost so much more than research with the potential of unlimited clean energy? This is telling about the priorities of the UK government.
Another effect which will affect all of us is the investment into universities. We already suffered the increase in fees from £3,000 to £9,000 per academic year. With less money our universities will have to get it from somewhere and it is more likely than not that it will come from us students.
This will mean that in the future, fewer students will want to attend higher education facilities. This may in turn lead to a smaller number of scientists, and perhaps worse science output from our universities. These are just a couple of potential problems when considering this kind of budget cut.