The Case Diary includes the latest information on our activites. The Diary archive, available via the links on the left, includes diary entries as well as all the information from our What's New section.
|26/05/04 Science education in schools and colleges
SBS today called on the Government to develop a clearer picture of the reform of education for teenagers. In an article in the SBS newsletter, SBS points out that the recent report on 14-19 education is so vague that it is hard to work out what the new system is supposed to amount to in practice. "Unless a lot of work is done between now and the publication of the final report in the autumn, there is a real danger that once again only piecemeal changes will be made," argues the article.
<24/05/04 Scientific community
As part of its programme of ensuring that it keeps in touch with the wider scientific community, SBS today took part in a wide ranging meeting at the British Library and a separate meeting with representatives of scientific industry. "The meeting at the Library was particularly interesting in the context of the Government's ten-year strategy for science," said Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS, "because a repository of information like the library is part of the research infrastructure, but its funding is not integrated into the mainstream of science funding."
18/05/04Chief Scientific Adviser
As the Government prepares its ten-year framework for science, SBS today enjoyed an extremely positive meeting with the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King. "Sir David is clearly having an important role in the development of the ten-year framework, and it was extremely useful to meet with him for an informal chat," said the Chairman of SBS, Prof Richard Joyner, who headed the SBS delegation.
SBS raised concerns that the salaries of publicly-funded researchers have fallen too low to be sustainable, worries about the state of science in schools, and the importance of retaining a strong presence in blue-skies research, as well as in exploiting science for economic gain.
17/05/04 Research in Europe
SBS today called on the Government to argue strongly for changes in the way European Union research funding is administered. In an article in Innovation Policy Review, SBS points out that the system will not serve the interests of the 100,000 new researchers who joined the Union when ten countries joined on 1 May. "The rules say one thing - research is funded on its excellence - but in practice everyone tries to ensure that the skills and money are transferred from the richer to the pooer countries," said Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS. "Because this has to be done by the back door, it is done inefficiently."
As discussions continue about the next European Framework Programme, SBS will be pressing the Government to make the rules clearer, so that they can work in the interests both of the rich countries that foot the bill, and the poorer countries that deserve the investment to improve their science bases.
<12/05/04 Susatainable funding for research
SBS today called on the Government to adhere to its stated principle of sustainable funding of research. In an article in Research Fortnight, SBS points out that although ministers and civil servants have repeatedly called for the full economic costs of research to be met, rather than leaving laboratories short of the money they need, some Government funding schemes are still breaking the principle.
"The NHS is exempt from paying the full costs of its research," said Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS, "which means that universities have to find the extra money from somewhere. Likewise the new academic fellowship scheme does not meet all the costs it is intended to cover. If the Government is serious about sustainable funding, it should put its house in order."
12/05/04Support for SBS's Campaign
In a show of support for SBS's campaign for British science, senior figures from the world of science and engineering gathered in London to discuss recent developments in science policy with staff and members of the executive committee. "Our Advisory Council is an extremely valuable asset," said Dr Peter Cotgreave, "because, between them, these people have the an almost unbelievably broad experience of science and of science policy."
Jane Cannon MBE; Dr Tom Inch FRSC; Dr Simon Campbell FRS FRSC; Prof Sir Harry Kroto FRS; Prof Joe Lamb FRSC; Baroness Sharp of Guildford; Dr Ian Gibson MP; Prof Sir Martin Rees FRS; Ian Taylor MBE MP; Sir Ian Lloyd; Prof Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith; Prof Bob Michell MRCVS; Prof Sir Eric Ash FRS FREng and Prof Sir Brian Follett FRS were present.
"I support SBS," said Prof Michell "because few countries which have contributed so much to science, and benefited so much from it, cherish it so little, and support it so grudgingly". Sir Eric Ash added, "The strength of SBS is based on its record of presenting the relevant facts with total objectivity. Numbers, graphs, statistics, advanced by SBS are correct!"
11/05/04Science in Wales
SBS today supported the call for more attention to be given to science policy in Wales. "A member of the Welsh Assembly called on the Welsh Government to hold a debate on science policy in Wales, in the context of using research and development as drivers of the Welsh economy, and we absolutely support that," said Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS.
"Many scientists in Wales feel that the Welsh Assembly Government has not given enough attention to science, and SBS is continuing to work to ensure that science moves higher up the political agenda."
04/05/04Image of science
SBS today lambasted public figures who confuse their own political opposition to some technological advances with criticism of science and scientists in general. In a letter to The Times, responding to an article by former Cabinet Minister Michael Meacher, SBS calls for decisions about politically-sensitive scientific decisions to be taken on the basis of admitting scientific uncertainty rather than unfoudned assertions. The text of the letter is below;
In seeming to criticize science in general because he opposes the growing of genetically-modified foods (comment, April 29), Michael Meacher fails to understand how science works. Science is a method for dealing with uncertainty, and most scientists are humble enough to admit the gaps in their knowledge. For example, Mr Meacher is wrong to assert that the group which considered BSE in 1989 “insisted that scrapie in cattle could not cross the species barrier”. The scientists actually said there was a theoretical risk that humans might become infected, but that the available evidence left a high degree of uncertainty. It was politicians who twisted this lack of evidence into assurances of safety. If it were not for scientific studies, we would not know about the environmental problems Mr Meacher lists, such as the depletion of the ozone layer. Whatever decision we eventually reach on the use of genetically-modified crops, such choices should involve the humility of admitting the limits of our knowledge, not Mr Meacher’s rather arrogant certitude that he is right and that most of Britain’s scientists are either corrupt or too stupid to see the world as he does.