Objective 9

Science and Society

Britain has played an exceptional part in the advance of science and has benefited from this through knowledge-based enterprises, which contribute hugely to our prosperity. But this advantage is under threat as investment in research declines in relation to our international competitors. Key factors in this are the low level of public investment in science (which should stimulate investment by the private sector); Brexit; our poor performance in maths, science and engineering; and obstacles for talented scientists from abroad who wish to work in the UK. 

In the 21st Century the ability of a country to be able to provide well paid jobs for its citizens will be determined by its investment in areas of new technology which in turn will be determined its commitment to research in those areas. To ignore this basic relationship will ensure that the UK will continue to fall behind its competitors and the jobs that are available will be relatively low paid and not secure. 

 

The Radical Party Proposes

  • Investing in Science
  • Promoting Public Awareness
  • Protecting the Ocean
  • The Knowledge Economy
  • International Collaboration

Investing in Science

The Party supports the call by the Campaign for Science and Engineering for government investment in research to be raised from the current 0.5% of GDP and for efforts to increase not-for-profit and private spending on science and R&D from the current 1.0% to 2.0% of GDP, to match the levels achieved in Germany and the US. A low level of public expenditure also reduces the ability to leverage investment in the private sector. In reverse an increased level of public expenditure can stimulate an increased level of private expenditure” Also would you go along with “talented scientists” in place of “skilled people.

Part of the work of the proposed Consultative Council of the development of the economy (Objective 3, above) would be to identify target areas for research that have the potential create long term benefits for the country to help guide decisions on government funding for scientific research relelevant to the medium term business development.

The Party supports the appointment of science champions in primary schools from among the existing staff, coupled with a determined effort to raise the number of school students (especially girls) studying maths and science.

Measures are also needed to ensure that students in further and higher education are not deterred by additional costs associated with studying science or engineering and to encourage more people to study these subjects at postgraduate level, where the shortfall of skills is particularly acute. The Party calls for the establishment of an annual day to celebrate the achievements of British science with funding to support activities in schools, community organisations and other relevant bodies.

 

Promoting Public Awareness

The public, and young people in particular, are deeply concerned about issues such as health and the environment but it is difficult for them to translate their concern into action as the issues are often distorted by ignorance, sensationalism and lobbying by the drinks, fossil fuel and other industries. Also important are the lack of a political party which speaks clearly for science and the environment.

Reflecting our commitment to empowerment, the aim should be to enable the public to make rational comparisons between different types of risk on the basis of sound evidence. For example, people are rightly aware of the danger from human-generated ionising radiation released in the course of medical procedures, industrial testing and by past atmospheric nuclear tests, which cause about 70 premature deaths a year in the UK, while largely ignoring the threat from vehicle and central heating exhausts in the street and in our own homes, which are estimated to cause approaching 100 premature deaths every day.

A high priority, therefore, should be given to ensuring that the public, teachers and media professionals have access to the up-to-date data and well-grounded analysis they need to contribute to informed decision-taking. To this end, the Party proposes that a ministerial post be created in the Department for Education and Science with responsibility for developing a strategy for improving public understanding of scientific issues of relevance to public policy – particularly in the fields of health and the environment. This should involve close engagement with scientists and teachers and include expanding the community of specialists dedicated to promoting public understanding of scientific issues, backed up with more resouces for outreach through social media, schools and libraries.

 

SUMMARY OF PROPOSALS

Investing in Science

  • increase government investment in research from the current level of 0.5% of GDP and raise not-for-profit and private spending on science and R&D from 1.0% to 2.0% of GDP;
  • support the appointment of science champions in schools and make a sustained effort to raise the number of school students (especially girls) studying maths and science;
  • ensure that students in further and higher education are not deterred by additional costs associated with studying science or engineering at postgraduate level, where the shortfall of skills in the labour market is particularly acute;
  • establishment an annual day to celebrate the achievements of British science, with funding to support activities in schools and in the community.

Promoting Public Engagement

  • develop the leading role of British universities and institutes in research into global environmental threats;
  • prioritise international research collaboration and the implementation of strategies for tackling global environmental threats; 
  • create a new ministerial post responsible  for promoting public understanding of scientific issues;
  • develop a strategy for enhancing public understanding involving engagement with the public and media to improve understanding of the scientific dimension of environmental threat.

The Knowledge Economy

 

International Collaboration 

  • ensure that whatever the outcome of the Brexit debate, a high priority is give to preserving and building on the UK’s involvement in EU research activities and funding; 
  • step up support for the development of international organisation and legislation relating to climate change the marine degradation and other critical environmental issues.