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.
30/11/04 University funding
In advance of the pre-Budget report on Thursday, SBS today stepped up the campaign for greater freedom and funding for unversity science. In interviews for Newsnight on BBC 2 and for the Financial Times, SBS pointed out that new investment for science had gone a long way to redressing the backlog of infrastructure funding for research laboratories, but that too much of the money comes with strings and conditions. "Universities simply do not have the freedom to respond to challenges as they arise, and we are in danger of not reaping the benefit of the investment that taxpayers are making," said Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS.
25/11/04 R&D Tax Credits
SBS today called on the Government to carry out a study of the effects of tax credits for research and development. In an article in the Financial Times online, SBS argues that the scheme is costing £500 million a year in lost revenue, so it is important to know exactly how much it is contributing to the economy.
In addition, SBS called on the Chancellor to reduce the amount of bureaucracy and interference by central government in the science base.
24/11/04 Science in Northern Ireland
SBS was today delighted to be campiagning for science in Northern Ireland. At a guest lecture at th University of Ulster, Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS, said,Northern Ireland's scientific world is being starved of investment. Per capita investment in science in Ulster is running at less than half the rate of England - and is only a third of the Scottish levels".
"The poor level of funding has not affected the quality of the scientific research carried out in Northern Ireland. For its size, Northern Ireland has a strong science base, with research of the highest quality across a range of subjects, and its universities have been particularly effective at seizing the opportunity to work with industry. Just think what could be done with funding that gave Northern Ireland parity with England, let alone Scotland."
23/11/04 Tomlinson Reforms
Rosemary Davies of SBS today attended a seminar on the Tomlinson Report. "SBS would fully support the increased emphasis on numeracy for all students" she said, "but we are worried that students might be further deterred from choosing sciences beyond the age of 16 if mathematics became a requirement for them”. SBS’s own survey of the Deans of Science showed that mathematical skills are severely lacking in new undergraduate students. Solutions to this problem must be well thought through and properly researched.
Rosemary also commented: “It would be at least nine years until the Tomlinson recommendations could be implemented. In the meantime it is crucial that we address the lack of resources and of good science teachers.”
18/11/04 Distinguished Lecture by Chris Patten
SBS was today delighted to host Rt Hon Chris Patten for the Annual Save British Science Distinuished Lecture. Mr Patten, who retired as a European Commissioner this afternoon, was giving his first major speech on research since becoming Chancellor of Oxford University. He defended the case for public funding of universities, and make strong arguments for the proposed European Research Council to focus its resources on the best research rather than being used as an instrument of social policy in Europe. Parts of his lecture were later reported in The Times, The Financial Times, BBC Radio 4's Today Programme and Channel 4 News.
18/11/04 School discipline
SBS is pleased to see the acknowledgement by the DfES today of the need to tackle behavioural problems in schools. An image of poor student behaviour is a major factor in deterring candidates from the teaching profession, and poses particular problems for practical science classes. Our own survey showed that science teachers in 58% of secondary schools have to cancel science practicals because of behavioural issues. However, the new legislation does not tackle the fact that financial implications may initially prevent exclusions from being made. While we await the proposals on school trips next year, it is important to bear in mind the importance of field work and science centre visits in enthusing young people about science and engineering.
SBS today cautioned that the publication of a "five-year plan" for the DTI must not be seen as a substitute for real action to strengthen the science base. "The plan includes strong rhetoric about science, and appears largely to rehash material that was announced in the ten-year framework for science and innovation in July," said Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS. "We welcome the new Newton Awards for excellent science, but if we are to truly rebuild the UK's scientific potential, we need bold measures, such as the Government saying it will interfere less in the priorities of the science base. Announcements like the one last week that the Treasury will take tighter control of the science budget suggest that politician still have not understood the value of pursuing an idea for it's own sake. That's where most of the economically-useful breakthroughs in science have come."
16/11/04 GCSE Science
SBS today welcomed moves to include the social and ethical implications of science in the school curriculum, but warned that they must not come at the expense of learning real science. As the Qualifications and Curriuculum Authority announced it would focus more on lifestyle and opinion than biology, chemistry and physics, Rosemary Davies of SBS said, "We welcome the fact that communication issues and ethics will be on the syllabus, but it must be put in a proper framework of knowledge and understanding, or it will be seen as a waste of time. Pupils cannot be given the impression that all they have to do for homework is read the newspaper." "Given the breadth of the new syllabus, we cannot assume that science teachers will have all of the relevant expertise," she continued "in order for this curriculum to deliver a real education it is crucial that teachers are provided with subject-specific training."
10/11/04 Science in Scotland
SBS today again demonstrated its commitment to science in Scotland, as the fourth annual Science and Parliament event brought together scientists and policitians from throughout Scotland. "The Scottish Parliament has real powers over science," said Rosemary Davies of SBS, as she met MSPs at the event, "and SBS has always tried to engage with Parliamentarians in Scotland to ensure that science has a voice."
The event, coordinated by the Royal Society of Chemistry, takes place on the same day as the Parliament will be debating a motion about science, and SBS briefed MSPs in advance by sending them a copy of our Agenda for the Next Four Years in Scotland
"We know our efforts are listened to in Scotland, not least because SBS was mentioned by name several times on the floor of the Parliament this afternoon," said Rosemary Davies.
02/11/04 Students in science
As part of its programme of engaging with the widest possible range of the scientific community, SBS has recently visited three different sets of students in British universities. "I went to Sussex to speak to students studying science policy last week, to Royal Holloway earlier this week to speak to students interested in science communication, and today I went to Cumberland Lodge to speak to engineering students," said Dr Peter Cotgreave, Director of SBS. "It's hugely important for SBS to have a grasp of what is going on throughout the scientific world, from R&D in multinational companies to the concerns of students in different branches of science and engineering."
01/11/04 Bureaucracy in science
SBS today warned that pointless rules and bureaucracy run the risk of hampering scientific progress. In two articles in Laboratory News and Innovation Policy Review, SBS points out that recent bureaucratic proposals to hinder foreign teachers and those from the private sector from working in the public sector are a serious problem when there is such a shortage of well-trained scienceteachers. In addition, assessment activities are creating extra pen-pushing. The Research Assessment Exercise has become a paperwork leviathan that, rather like Frankenstein's monster, has broken loose from its creators to have a life of its own, with far-reaching consequences that were never intended or foreseen, and are certainly not desirable.