Science is Vital Rally 09/10/10

A love of science, some geeky jokes, some well crafted banners, and some bad singing – Trish and I fitted in well at the Science is Vital rally on Saturday. It was organised very quickly as an emergency response to the proposed budget costs. So here are our thoughts on the issues and a link to the song (cringe). 

Video: We need science innovation sung by Evan Harris

It got me thinking about our (OK maybe ‘our government’) obsession with the short term. A lady spoke well about Alzheimer’s research. Her mother recently died after suffering for 8 years so she saw firsthand how inadequate our treatments are. If we put some of the money that currently goes to the NHS for treating people with inadequate drugs into researching better ones we’d improve lives. Yet that requires a longer term vision, and more funding for science.

The focus on medical research did, however, make me wonder if we too are guilty of short-term thinking. Our long-term wellbeing is dependent on natural resources, but medical funding seems more immediate. Are we spending our science budget in a short-sighted way?

On a lighter note, I had a stylish banner made from, amongst other things, a bamboo hoop that’s meant to inhabit my aunt’s garden but never made it beyond the kitchen. I looked good. And one of the songs is up on my YouTube channel.

The official website is:

Listen to the talks on a podcast at:

But Trish did a very good job of summing up what the key messages were:

– other countries are investing more in research in times of recession to help get out of trouble, but Britain is cutting funding.

– England doesn’t export much – the service industry (Eg Banks) is not reliable or can easily be exported, these are not sectors that we can depend on. Science is something that is world class in Britain and a sector that can drive the economy

– Researchers in England make up 1% of researchers globally and produce 10% of the good research (most cited papers). The phrase ‘punching above their weight’ was used often.

– Scientists are mobile and will move out of the country to get jobs, this will have a negative impact on the country.

– Scientists earn a fraction of what people in other educated professions receive – how many top graduates start off with a stipend of 13 grand a year?


About Rebecca Nesbit

I am author of a popular science book 'Is that Fish in your Tomato?' exploring the fact and fiction of GM crops. In my work and leisure so far, I have trained bees to detect explosives, used a radar to study butterflies for my PhD, written a novel, taken the train from London to China, organised Biology Week, sold science jewellery on Etsy, and traveled to four continents with Nobel Laureates. Best off all, I've made lots of friends whose support I very much appreciate. Thank you! Please visit my website:
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4 Responses to Science is Vital Rally 09/10/10

  1. Having listened to the podcast and the augments therein it’s hard to see how anyone could argue to cut funding. It just seems so obvious that if anything we need more money put into science. The problem of course is where that money can come from. At which point I had a conversation with someone about footballers’ salaries. How do we have enough money to pay some guy who happens to be able to kick a ball around, and not enough to fund ground breaking research? Admittedly footballers’ salaries don’t come directly from the government so I’m not sure that this argument works…but it does make you think…

    • Trish Wells says:

      I was thinking this yesterday, the facebook guy, Zuckerberg is stupidly rich, it doesn’t seem fair. And i’ve always thought it unfair that the people on ER pretending to be doctors, probably working less hours in much more comfortable conditions without the fear of killing people, earn more than the people actually saving lives! Money is sooooo strange, it’s like magic keeping the world turning, but it’s not distributed to save people/ecosystems or for long term security, it just happens and some people are better at playing the game through luck or skill.

  2. Great pictures of us online:

    Feed The World! How?

    Science Is Vital!

    Science: feed the world

  3. The more you think about money the crazier it seems. What this is all ultimately about is the only goods that are truley worth anything – food, water and warmth/shelter. It’s our job to spend our money wisely and encourage the government to do so too.

    But let’s not moan too much – I could have been a banker and earned more money, but I’m happier being a Becky and earning less. The problem we want to deal with is that there aren’t enough scientists, not that other people have stupid salaries.

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