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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 22:16 GMT 23:16 UK
Extra science money 'most welcome'
Science BBC
There was a broad welcome for the 7% increase in funding for science announced in the UK Government's Comprehensive Spending Review on Tuesday.

Chancellor Gordon Brown said the science budget would be raised by 5.4% per year in real terms. This was in addition to a 1bn joint capital investment package announced two weeks ago with the Wellcome Trust research charity.

Taken together, Mr Brown said, it meant science spending would increase by an average of 7% a year for three years.

Professor Richard Joyner, who chairs the Save British Science Society, said the extra funds would help to stem the "brain drain" of top researchers who leave UK labs for better paid posts abroad.

"It keeps the Office of Science and Technology on target for the doubling of its investment in scientific, engineering and medical research in 10 years.

"This is the level of increase that the SBS has consistently argued is necessary to remedy the neglect of the previous 20 years.

Investment in buildings

But Professor Joyner said further funds were needed to attract the most talented young people into science.

"University salaries have been static in real terms since 1980," he said. "There is a lot of evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, that universities are having real trouble attracting really good people into science, engineering and medical research."

The Royal Society also welcomed the Chancellor's statement.

Its president, Nobel Laureate Sir Aaron Klug, said: "We are particularly glad that the government has heeded advice about continuing its investment in buildings, laboratories and equipment.

"We also welcome a long-overdue rise in postgraduate grants and the flexibility provided by additional funding for new programmes. We await with interest details of the settlements for the higher education funding councils and the research and development expenditure plans for the other government departments."

The Medical Research Council said the new money should be seen as a reward for the excellent work of British scientists.

Human genetic code

Professor Sir George Radda, Chief Executive of the MRC, said: "The emphasis on genomics underlines the wealth of opportunities to apply knowledge from the recently announced sequencing of the human genome.

"Scientists are developing new approaches to understanding, treating and preventing a wide range of major diseases including cancer, heart disease and mental health.

Sir George said the MRC looked forward to detailed discussions of spending plans and of the allocations that would be made to the individual research councils.

Two weeks ago, the Chancellor announced that British science would be getting a 1bn boost for the years covering 2002 to 2004. About three-quarters of the money will come from the Treasury and the other quarter from the Wellcome Trust.

This investment is essentially an extension, with a top-up, to the "joint infrastructure fund" which runs out in 2002.

Some of the extra cash is to be used to offer more competitive salaries to scientists at all grades, including post-doctoral researchers, and some of the investment is due to go on upgrading university laboratories.

In a survey published in May, the Committee of University Vice Chancellors and Principals claimed that two thirds of science departments lacked vital equipment and that 60% of existing equipment could not deliver leading-edge research.

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See also:

05 Jul 00 | Education
'World class' science pledge
14 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
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11 May 00 | Unions 2000
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04 Apr 00 | Education
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10 Jan 00 | Education
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