Science is Vital

Science is Vital Campaign Logo As a practising scientist you might expect me to believe that Science is Vital. “He would say that wouldn’t he,” you might say. Objectively speaking though, science research has a large impact on the wealth and success of a country.

Even during these times of austerity, most developed countries are investing in science research, anticipating the benefits that a research led economy has historically provided.

In contrast to this approach the UK coalition government is poised to announce the largest cuts in science funding in a generation. The Royal Society has said that cuts of 25% would representGame Over” for science in this country. The government will announce the broad cuts on the 20th October so any action against the impending funding crisis must be swift. The possible outcomes if a full range of cuts go ahead are quite dire.

The Science Is Vital campaign is a grassroots movement which has been guided from its infancy by Dr Jenny Rohn, a cell biologist at UCL. A petition, a rally in Westminster and a lobby of MPs have been organised which it is hoped will be able to alleviate the impending cuts by showing the government how essential scientific research is to the economic welfare of the country.

As a cosmologist, I know that my research has little intrinsic advantage for the UK economy in the short term. The advantage gained is in the number of students who are inspired to study science after wondering about the origins of the universe and the Big Bang. The contribution these students go on to make to the UK economy through science, industry or commerce benefits the country overall.

It is imperative that the tradition of scientific discovery in the UK is protected. I implore you to do what you can to show the government that Science is Vital. Sign the petition, email your MP and if you can be there, join the rally in Westminster on the 9th of October!


Simon Singh wins appeal

Congratulations and well done to Simon Singh who today won his appeal for the right to use a “fair comment” defence in his case against the British Chiropractic Association.

Jack of Kent is going to give his analysis of the ruling over the weekend, starting here.

This is only one case however and the need for reform of the libel laws is still as pressing as ever. Jack Straw has outlined Labour’s plans for reform if they win the election. With the general election due in a few weeks, now is the time to put pressure on all politicians by signing the petition at


Reed Elsevier gives up its guns

Reed Elsevier, which publishes many scientific journals and magazines, has just announced that they are going to get rid of their lucrative side-business of running major armaments fairs. Earlier this year there was a lot of criticism of the company for this practice, from shareholders, rival journals and even the editors of the Lancet, one of Reed Elsevier’s most respected journals. The chief executive specifically talked about this pressure in his explanation for the change:

We have listened closely to these concerns and this has led us to conclude that the defence shows are no longer compatible with Reed Elsevier’s position as a leading publisher of scientific, medical, legal and business content.

Given that the arms fair business makes up only about 1% of Reed’s overall turnover, I suppose it’s not going to be too hard for them to say goodbye to it, but this case does highlight the campaigning potential of academics. In this particular situation this bargaining power was amplified by the fact that Reed Elsevier’s main business is journal publication, an area that relies heavily on the authority gained by having big names in the field appear in your journal. Even a top tier journal might never recover from the effect of a boycott by top academics. Of course, how effective or indeed warranted other academic boycotts are is questionable.