Science and Technology Committee


Report to be published

The Committee published ' The impact of spending cuts on science and scientific research', HC 335-I, its Sixth Report of Session 2009-10, on Tuesday 23 March 2010. Volume II, the oral and written evidence, was published on Thursday 25 March 2010.


The Science and Technology Committee today issues a stark warning to Government: commit to an increase in investment in science now or risk devastating British science and the economy in years to come.

In a report published today, the Committee says that a failure to increase investment in science is inconsistent with the Government's policy ambition of growth in the sector and undermines its previous good record in this area. If the Government is truly committed to the principle of a knowledge-based economy, it should increase spending on science in Wednesday's Budget.

The Pre-Budget Report in December 2009 announced that £600 million would be cut from higher education and science and research budgets by 2012-13.

Phil Willis MP, Committee Chair, said:

"The Government's policy ambitions are at odds with its actions. On the one hand it champions supporting business investment in research and development, while on the other it announces cuts which threaten the very science base that underpins such businesses. We hope that the Budget will contain good news for science funding. Anything less has potentially devastating consequences for science in the UK."

A perception that British science is suffering as a result of cuts is likely to make the UK a less attractive place for academics to work. Equally, science may become a less attractive option for students contemplating higher education.

The Committee warns that academia risks losing some of its brightest and best to the bright lights of industry and commerce; the life of a young research scientist should be made more attractive.

The high cost of running science departments remains a threat and the Committee recommends that the Higher Education Funding Council for England's allocation of teaching funding for STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) should reflect this.

Scientists are under pressure to demonstrate the impact of their work and the Committee highlights concerns that challenges in quantifying the economic impact of investment in research could result in some areas being undervalued.

Terms of Reference

With concerns growing about the effects of cuts in public spending on science, engineering and technology (SET), the Science and Technology Committee has today announced an inquiry examining the impact of spending cuts on SET and scientific research.

€” the process for deciding where to make cuts in SET spending;

€” what evidence there is on the feasibility or effectiveness of estimating the economic impact of research, both from a historical perspective (for QR funding) and looking to the future (for Research Council grants);

€” the differential effect of cuts on demand-led and research institutions;

€” the implications and effects of the announced STFC budget cuts;

€” the scope of the STFC review announced on 16 December and currently underway;

€” the operation and definition of the science budget ring-fence, and consideration of whether there should be a similar ring-fence for the Higher Education Funding Council for England research budget and departmental research budgets;

€” whether the Government is achieving the objectives it set out in the 'Science and innovation investment framework 2004-2014: next steps', including, for example, making progress on the supply of high quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates to achieve its overall ambitions for UK science and innovation;

€” whether the extra student support, which the Government announced on 20 July 2009 for 10,000 higher education places, delivered students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses; and

€” the effect of HEFCE cuts on the 'unit of funding' for STEM students.

The deadline for written submission was Wednesday 27 January and has therefore now passed.

Oral evidence

Previous sessions:

Wednesday 24 February 2010
The Rt Hon Lord Drayson, Minister for Science and Innovation, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and The Rt Hon David Lammy MP, Minister of State for Higher Education and Intellectual Property, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

Wednesday 10 February 2010
Professor Michael Arthur, Chair, The Russell Group, Professor Janet Beer, Chair, University Alliance, Professor Les Ebdon, Chair, million+, and Professor Paul Wellings, Chair, The 1994 Group; Dr Alastair Hunter, President, University and College Union, Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive, Higher Education Funding Council for England, Professor Adrian Smith, Director General, Science and Research, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Professor Steve Smith, President, Universities UK

Wednesday 3 February 2010
Lord Broers, Professor Brian Cox, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Manchester, Nick Dusic, Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering, and Sir Peter Williams, Vice-President, The Royal Society; Iain Gray, Chief Executive, Technology Strategy Board, Dr Tony Peatfield, Director of Corporate Affairs, Medical Research Council, Professor Michael Sterling, Chair, Science and Technology Facilities Council, and Professor Alan Thorpe, Chair, Research Councils UK

Written correspondence

22 March 2010

Letter from Lord Drayson to the Chairman of the Committee regarding the impact of spending cuts on science and scientific research inquiry

25 January 2010

Letter from Lord Drayson to the Chairman of the Committee regarding the pre-budget report

8 January 2010

Letter from Lord Drayson to the Chairman of the Committee regarding resources for science and research

Press notices

23/03/10 Report published
18/03/10 Reports to be published
13/01/10 Inquiry announced