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General Election 2019 – Science and engineering hustings

18 Nov 2019

Ahead of the General Election, CaSE organised a hustings event for representatives from the political parties to answer questions on science and engineering.

This event, held on Tuesday 19th November, was jointly arranged by the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy, the Campaign for Science and Engineering, the Foundation for Science and Technology, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society.  

Representatives for science, research, technology and innovation policy from the Conservatives (Stephen Metcalfe ), Labour (Chi Onwurah), and Liberal Democrats (Sam Gyimah) outlined their party’s election position on these issues, and answered questions from the audience. The event was chaired by Pallab Ghosh, BBC Science Correspondent. The Scottish National Party were also invited but were unable to provide a representative.

You can watch the debate here:

Questions submitted from Twitter throughout the event

Do the speakers know what a postdoc is? How many do they think there are in the UK, and what is their salary?

How will you support an increase in doctoral and early career researchers overall, especially those from diverse backgrounds?

With education per pupil reduced by nearly £700 in this (Westminster) constituency, how do the candidates expect to ‘inspire’ students on a shoestring (even if there is a modest uplift)?

Student, researcher and staff mental health is important. What would your party do to support the mental health of the HE community.

Great to hear more MPs from science background to be welcomed, but can the panel reassure me that their approach to policy decisions will strive to be similar to the scientific approach and be evidence-informed?

What are the parties views on welcoming overseas students (undergraduate & postgraduate) to the UK, and encouraging them to stay and contribute to the country after they have finished? Recent policy seems designed to reject them and kick them out ASAP.

Do you believe the EU exclusion of the UK from the Galileo satellite programme is in any way fair, reasonable and in the interests of science collaboration? How should the UK respond to this, having funded and developed so much of the technology?

I welcome the commitment to grow the percentage of GDP for R&D, but how can we optimise the balance between R and D? Do we have the balance right?

The benefits of applied science and research are clear – what do you think are the benefits of basic science to the UK?

If you were HE minister, what would be the first thing you would do?

Does Jeremy Corbyn still believe in homeopathy? Does he think big pharma should continue to play a part in research and clinical trials?

How many researchers are currently funded by ERC grants, and what will happen to them if ERC funding is withdrawn? In the short term, who will pick up all the salaries?

Big pharma are one of the largest contributors to UK science and innovation, as well as the economy. How will each party ensure fair representation of life sciences R&D in government and policy making?

Seriously, how can we be so reckless as to allow Brexit to happen if the 3rd largest industry sector is the life sciences. This sector can not survive without money from Europe or free movement of people.

Do you agree that increased public R&D spending should be spread across the country? (At Nesta we propose devolving control of 25% of the enlarged budget to places). How will you stop all the money ending up in the Golden Triangle?