Science is vital demo

Report by Paul Feldman and photos by Peter Arkell

Scientists, who are not known for taking to the streets, rallied outside the Treasury on Saturday to protest against cuts in government research funding.

Science is vital

The scientists fear that next week’s budget cuts will slash spending on science, putting thousands of jobs at risk and adding to economic decline.

Up to 2,000 joined a noisy rally, sporting a variety of creative posters including one that read “Up and Atom”.

The protest was organised by Science is Vital, a campaigning organisation launched only a month ago by research Jennifer Rohn in response to Business Secretary Vince Cable’s speech suggesting that around 45% of scientific research is not of a sufficiently high standard to justify funding it.

Speakers at the rally included Colin Blakemore, the ex-head of the Medical Research Council, and science writers Simon Singh and Ben Goldacre, as well as union leaders. Many of the protesters wore their lab coats.

More than 25,000 people have signed Science is Vital’s petition calling for science funding to be maintained, including many leading scientists. An estimated 180,000 people work research and development.

The campaigners argue that scientific research represents a sound financial investment, and that cuts would decimate British science, driving a generation of scientists abroad.

Science is Vital warns: “As the teaching of high-cost science and engineering courses is already under-resourced, and some universities have accepted unfunded places, further financial pressure is likely to lead to departmental closures.”
11 October 2010

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