Why Science Is Vital: Part 2, the MP letter.

I emailed Julian Sturdy MP earlier to ask him to sign EDM 707, but he did not respond (perhaps it went to the wrong email address). This time I am sending my message via writetothem.com. Here it is – let’s see if we get an adequate response. The letter was in plain text, but I am adding links here in case readers you’re interested in the sources etc.

 

Dear Julian Sturdy,

I am writing to ask you to sign EDM 767 and to support the Science Is Vital campaign, which aims to defend public funding for scientific research in the forthcoming spending review. I would also like you to attend the lobby of parliament which will take place at 3.30pm on 12 October (Committee Room 10).

This grassroots campaign has already attracted over 7000 signatures since being launched a week ago. It is now supported by prominent medical research charities, such as Cancer Research UK. They recognise that the fight against cancer depends not just own their own research but critically on the new ideas, discoveries and technologies which are developed through government-funded research in universities and research institutes. Scientific research and engineering help save lives and has transformed our everyday lives in countless ways over the last 200 years. If we want to find cures for cancer, or feed the world in the 21st century or meet our energy and transportation needs in a sustainable way, then we need to support science.

But science is also vital for the economy. A full economic case against cuts is presented here (with evidence and links to original sources):

http://scienceisvital.org.uk/2010/09/28/key-messages/

The main points are these:

UK science and engineering is already highly efficient. For example, we produces 12% of global citations with around 1% of the population, yet the UK spends a smaller proportion of its GDP on research than any other G7 nation apart from Italy.

Our scientific excellence brings huge economic benefits to the country, which greatly outweigh the costs. For example, it is estimated [link is to a pdf] that every £1 spent on public or charitably funded medical research gave a return of 30p a year in perpetuity from direct or indirect GDP gains, on top of the direct gains of the research.

Scientific research is an investment which could help to drive growth through innovation. The benefits of investment (and potential costs of cuts) will be compound. Scientific research is a cumulative process, and it does not work like a tap that can be turned off and back on again; if we lose our edge in science in technology, we may never regain it.

Cuts would indirectly impact on Higher Education which would have knock on effects for the economy. For example, the training of overseas students currently brings in £5bn per annum but this would be at risk if we lost our reputation for world-leading research. Damage to the HE sector would result in a generation of less-skilled graduates making us less competitive.

For all the reasons above, cuts would damage investor confidence.

I work at the University of York, where I teach cutting-edge brain imaging methods to postgraduate students from the UK and around the world and conduct research into brain function and memory, including the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. The University is currently ranked 88th in the entire world, and as a leading research-centred university (in the UK’s top ten) it would undoubtedly suffer as a result of any cuts. It employs over 3000 people, many of whom, like me, live in your constituency. By bringing in 13000 students and through spin-out companies and local procurement it makes an important contribution to the local economy and benefits us all. Please sign the motion, and speak out against cuts.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Tom Hartley

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