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The BBC's Christine McGourty
"The new scheme is intended to prevent the so-called brain drain"
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Dr Simon McQueen,
recently returned from Pennsylvania State University, and Professor Richard Joyner of Save British Science
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Tuesday, 2 January, 2001, 09:22 GMT
Cash to keep science 'brains'
Scientists are attracted to the US by better salaries
Universities are being invited to apply for a share of the UK Government's 4m fund to reverse the "brain drain" of scientists leaving Britain for better salaries abroad.

If we do not compete in science and if we do not compete in technology, we do not compete

Professor Richard Joyner
Selected researchers could see their pay topped up by an extra 75,000 a year from April under the scheme, which was first announced last July.

Poor pay is seen as one of the main reasons why some of Britain's best scientific brains choose to leave for the United States or Germany. Although, opportunity and different working conditions are also factors.

More than 70 awards to promising young researchers, as well as more senior academics, are expected to be made over the next two years. The initiative is funded jointly by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Wolfson Foundation research charity. Both are contributing 2m.

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury said: "This partnership will ensure that we can not only attract the best international scientists but also keep and nurture those with outstanding potential even at the early stages of their career."

He said the scheme was designed to promote a UK "brain gain": "We want to see the David Beckhams and Steve Redgraves of the science world doing research in the UK."

'More needed'

The Save British Science Campaign believes the awards are a step in the right direction. But its chairman, Professor Richard Joyner, believes much more needs to be done to stop the exodus and tackle the larger problem of recruiting and retaining staff in universities and science and engineering generally.

The initiative only targets a "relatively small" number of academics
"An initiative which targets a relatively small group of people is important but does not really tackle the main problem," he said. Universities currently pay professors a minimum salary of 35,000 to 40,000. Lecturers earn less.

Professor Joyner said funding closer to 100m was needed to bring academic salaries up to date. He said scientists and researchers also needed better equipment, facilities, time and freedom from interference.

"Science and technology is at the root of economic prosperity for a country of the type we are," he said. "If we do not compete in science and if we do not compete in technology, we do not compete - end of story."

The initial 4m will provide funding for a year, but the aim is to renew the scheme in subsequent years.

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See also:

26 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Cash for 'premier league' scientists
18 Jul 00 | Education
Extra science money 'most welcome'
05 Jul 00 | Education
'World class' science pledge
10 Jan 00 | Education
70m for university science research
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