Let’s have a conversation about the funding of science
Throughout the Science is Vital campaign I was aware that whilst we were fighting to retain science funding, no-one really had an accurate map of current funding. We managed fine because we concentrated on funding through BIS and that was reasonably clear. If we had to enter into a wider conversation about where other funding comes from and where that money goes we would have struggled to provide an accurate and detailed picture.
I don't believe the issue of science funding is going to go away and I believe the need for an accurate picture of science funding is going to become vital.
Yesterday the NewScientist reported on the latest efforts by the Republican Party in the US to get the public involved in reducing their deficit (yes, I agree that they have ulterior motives).
"OMG, terrifying" tweeted Jenny Rohn in response. It is pretty scary what the consequences might be.
Some people might argue that we should fight against the public playing a role in determining science funding. Whilst they might (hopefully) succeed in having scientists keep the final decision about which projects get funded, they will not be able to stop the public influencing decisions through programmes similar to YouCut.
It's my view that instead to trying to keep the public away from conversations involving science funding we need to engage with them. We can start by creating an accurate picture of what is currently funded in the UK. We have a very efficient science research sector in the UK (see point 3) so let's be open about what we spend and why.
We can choose not to join in the conversation about science funding, but as the YouCut programme shows, it doesn't mean the conversation isn't happening, it just means that the science community is not part of the conversation. If we want that conversation to be informed, to be rational, and to be intelligent then we need to be part of it.