- The Science ring-fence: Both Labour and the Lib Dems promise a ring-fenced science budget to cover the Next Comprehensive Spending Review. The Tories commit to a "multi-year science and research budget", but avoid referring to a ring-fence. Both the Lib Dems and Labour say they have no plans to cut the current science funding for 2010-11
- Research impact: The Tories promise to postpone the research excellence framework by up to two years because of concerns over how to measure impact. The Lib Dems want to reform the research council's use of potential impact to determine funding (ie it should not determine outcomes). Labour's plans to include impact in the REF remain intact.
- Innovation, the knowledge economy, and wealth: Labour and the Conservatives make the strongest pledges. Both want more UK research to be translated into UK products, and both startegically focus on the key sectors. The Tories pledge to establish "joint university-business researcha nd development institutes". Labour plans to develop Technology and Innovation Centres and to set up a £35 million University Enterprise Capital Fund to improve early stage commercialisation. The Lib Dems haven't quite set out such strategic plans, and say that they will review ways of encouraging more private investment in research and development.
- Directing Research: The governemnt's role in directing research council funding at the macro level (eg. to meet big scientific challenges) is stressed by both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. The Tories would also work with scientists on a clearer definition of the so -called Haldane principle (it states that politicians shouldn't interfere unduly in how the research councils spend their money). Labour says it respects the principle and will continue to support curiosity-driven research. The Tories also stress that scientific research must progress within boundaries set by Parliament, and also pledge to reduce the use of animals in research.
- Scientific advice to government: The Lib Dems make the strongest commitments in this area. Critisizing Labour's Principles of Scientific Advice, they promise to return to an earlier set of principles drawn up by scientists. The party also says it will consult on whether the office of the government's chief scientific adviser should be moved to the Cabinet Office, and that it will also appoint a chief scientific adviser to the Treasury.
- Libel law reform and open access: All three parties commit to reforming England's libel laws, but the Lib Dems in particular highlight the problems faced by scientists, stressing the need to "protect peer reviewed researchfrom libel suits". The party also seeks to make open access an election issue, saying it would ensure that all state funded research papers are made publicaly available.
- Encouraging female and young researchers: The Lib Dems say they would explore how to deal with a dearth of postdoctoral places for young researchers. They also recognise the problem of the gender gap in science and engineering, pledging to introduce "exit interviews" for everyone leaving publicaly funded research posts to gather "clear data on reasons for departure".
- Protecting university science departments: The Lib Dems pledge to explore ways of rejiggling the system to stop science departments closing due to a shortage of students, and say they would "work to tackle the crisis in UK physics". All parties stress the importance of getting more science teachers into schools and encouraging pupils to take science subjects.
Friday, 30 April 2010
I just came upon quite a nice little summary by Zoe Corbyn on the science policies of the three competing parties, in this week's THE. Since STEM subjects are so high up in current employability and skills discourse, it is interesting to see how all three policies converge: the end is the same and remains a priority (scientific innovation), but they may want to use different means to achieve it (differences in the role of the state in the production of scientific knowledge or different budgetary provisions for research/ skills development). Here's a few interesting snippets: