Science needs more cash and a higher public profile says TUC

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date: 29 April 2008

embargo: 00.01hrs Wednesday 30 April 2008

The Government needs to address the funding crisis currently hitting scientific research in the UK, otherwise physicists and chemists will take their skills elsewhere and the economy will suffer as a result, says the TUC in a report published today (Wednesday).

Hybrid Cars and Shooting Stars urges ministers to make up the £80 million shortfall affecting the Science and Technologies Facilities Council. It says funds must be found to protect important science projects and ensure that the science community can continue to use its expertise and skills to benefit the UK economy.

The report highlights some of the laboratories and research institutes that have had to close their doors or cut back on research as a result of lost funding over the last few years such as the Silsoe Research Institute and the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology. It also says that no cuts to science projects should take place while the current Wakeham review into the strength and role of UK physics is underway. This call is also made by the Innovation, Universities and Skills Select Committee, which also publishes its review of Science Budget Allocations today (Wednesday).

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'The UK has a fantastic record on science but our researchers need state-of-the-art facilities at their disposal and research institutes need a highly skilled pool of scientists to recruit from.

'The Government needs to make up the £80 million shortfall or many world-beating science projects may close and their scientists leave to work elsewhere. At the very least, there should be no job losses among scientists until an independent study into the long term health of UK physics has reported.'

Hybrid Cars and Shooting Stars also calls on scientists to do more to increase public understanding of their work and suggests the holding of science summits across the UK, where schools, politicians and scientists could debate key issues such as climate change and medical research.

The report says that children's first encounters with science are at school and encouraging more young people to stick with science is key to making a career in science a more attractive proposition. But too many students are dropping science as a subject as soon as they are able to and many schools are struggling to recruit science teachers.

The report urges the Government to try harder to increase the take up of science and maths courses at university because the current shortage of science teachers is having a knock-on effect on the numbers of people going on to study science at university.

More must also be done to increase the number of women who take science degrees and who go on to pursue a career in science, says the report. Only 14 per cent of science and technology professionals are women, and within universities only 14 per cent of engineering and technology students, 24 per cent of computer science and 22 per cent of physicists are female. Hybrid Cars and Shooting Stars believes that after school science clubs for teenage girls - modelled on the successful Computer Clubs for Girls initiative - would help to capture their imagination and encourage them not to see science just as a subject for the boys.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- A copy of Hybrid Cars and Shooting Stars is available at http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/sciencepaper.pdf

- Hybrid Cars and Shooting Stars is being launched by the TUC at a breakfast seminar on Wednesday 30 April at which TUC Deputy General Secretary, Frances O'Grady and former Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury will speak.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Register for the TUC's press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Brenchley T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: ebrenchley@tuc.org.uk

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