How generous is the UK science budget, really?

Whatever you think about spending on sport, in times of austerity or otherwise, there is no denying that the strategy paid off – at least, if your yardstick for success is Olympic medals. The message couldn’t be more clear: if you want to do well at sport, you have to not only have talent, but be able to exploit that talent by providing training, facilities, housing, vittles, equipment, transport (and even research) – a whole heap of business that costs cold, hard cash.

Science on the other hand, well we Brits have a reputation for doing “more with less”, apparently. Our elected leaders bang on about how we are renowned for punching above our weight, plucky little Britain, aren’t we clever little chaps (and chapesses), whoops here comes another Nobel prize. Of course, if British science is indeed good because we don’t spend enough money on it, then the logical thing to do is cut science funding altogether. Imagine how great we could be!


If the Olympic experience shows us anything, it is that existing talent requires support; that throwing money at a problem yields dividends. And we’re not talking about intangibles such as prestige on the international stage, some fuzzy feel-good factor that makes people forget about massive national debt for a fortnight and warm to random strangers on the Tube (or even 400g chunks of metal): no, we’re talking about monetary returns that even if they won’t dig us out of a worldwide recession will make the road to recovery that little bit smoother and straighter (and give us pretty toys to play with on the way).

How generous is the science budget, really? | Richard P Grant | Science |

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