President’s comments: UK science funding

Yesterday [Tuesday 30 March] our President, Professor Dame Anne Johnson PMedSci, took part in a press conference held by the Science Media Centre addressing the recent cuts to research funded by the Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget and the question of whether existing science budgets will be used to pay for Horizon Europe association. Speaking on the panel at this press conference Professor Johnson said:

“The UK Government’s ambition to become a science superpower is welcome, but the ODA cuts and possibility of using funds from the existing science budget to pay for participation in Horizon Europe hugely undermine this ambition and potentially the UK’s reputation as a credible, reliable, and valued research partner. In particular, the cuts to ODA will mean a loss of trust from our international partners - which will take years to rebuild - and they do not align with Government’s ambition to be a science superpower.

“Meanwhile, we need confirmation that additional funds from the Treasury, and not from the existing science budget, will pay for association to Horizon Europe, otherwise science funding will be reduced.

“COVID-19 has seen science, public health, industry and the research community come together at speed and scale. We need to harness this momentum to drive forward scientific innovation. This will not be possible if the proposed cuts come into play. The Government must listen to the voices of the scientific community to realise their vision of the UK as a science superpower.

“The UK’s diverse ecosystem for funding health research is supported by a range of sources, including ODA, EU collaboration and medical research charities – all of which are being affected by changes in funding, and in the case of charities, loss of income due to the pandemic. This triple-whammy poses a real risk to the UK’s medical research base, the researchers at home and abroad whose careers depend on this funding, and the UK’s international partnerships.

“Over the last decade, these funding networks have allowed us to build international partnerships, strengthen our global health research base, and make the UK an attractive research partner. Reducing the money available to conduct global health research means breaking collaborations and even ceasing live grants, reducing networking, and jeopardising career progression of global health researchers in the UK and partner countries.

“The best UK and international scientists win GCRF and UKRI funds, to address the world’s most pressing health problems. Cutting these funds affects our best scientists, and our valued international partners.

“The UK is not alone in being a global funder and to be a global science superpower we need a strong funding base and partners who trust us. These cuts will weaken long term and emerging scientific collaborations.”

-ENDS-

See our associated blog Superpower status will only come if backed by investment

The briefing was widely covered by the national media, including pieces in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, The BBC  and on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. It was also covered by specialist media including Times Higher Education, Research Fortnight and Politico.

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