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From ‘Save British Science’, to ‘CaSE’, to the future

02 Dec 2016

In our penultimate blog, Professor Denis Noble one of CaSE’s founders, looks at the origin and future of CaSE

It is now 30 years since I and 1500 other scientists launched what was then called Save British Science. We could not have imagined that it would grow into a fully professional and effective organisation, the Campaign for Science and Engineering. In fact, it was not even our original intention to found an organisation. We did so only because so many scientists paid money out their own pockets for The Times advertisement that accompanied a Press Conference in London. We actually had a surplus after paying for the advertisement. That little seed has grown into what has become a necessary feature of the interaction between science and government.

‘Save British Science’ advert, The Times, January 1986

So what of the next 30 years? The history of science, technology and engineering clearly tells us that we would be foolish to claim to predict what will happen. We could not have known in 1986 what changes would happen by 2016. But it would be even more foolish to imagine that the UK could flourish in the future without at least matching other developed countries in supporting research and development. In a world made even more uncertain following recent political decisions in the UK and the USA, we need to be vigilant in making the case to government and to the public for such investment. It was an important decision way back in 1986 that we would not be aligned with any particular political party. Our Launch Press Conference in London was attended by MPs and Lords from all parties. Over the subsequent years we successfully interacted with governments of all kinds.

I will hazard one important guess concerning what will be important in the development of science and engineering in the next 30 years. This is that many of the growing points will be strongly interdisciplinary. My own subject, physiology, has flourished to the extent that it has incorporated expertise from mathematics, physics, engineering, chemistry, computer science, and many other disciplines. Inter-disciplinarity is almost bound to be one of the keys to success.

Denis Noble CBE FMedSci FRS


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