Shaky UK Government May Affect Science Policy

June 5th, 2009

Posted by: admin

UPDATE – 7 pm EDT, 6/5/09 – apparently the DIUS is no more, according to Nature.  It will be incorporated into a new department, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills.  Whether Nature neglected a comma after Business or not is unclear.

UPDATE – 6/6/09 – Apparently Nature did neglect the comma, but given how it’s absent from the Department logo, but not the announcement, I can understand the confusion.

Original Post – I’d encourage any of our readers closer to this to provide additional details, but I found it interesting this speculation from Nature News that the troubles in the government of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown could affect the organization of science policy in that country.  The Prime Minister reshuffled his cabinet in light of recent resignations, promoting the current head of the Department on Universities, Innovation and Skills (DIUS) to a Cabinet position.  DIUS was created by PM Brown in 2007 to put universities and innovation issues in the same place.  Previously innovation concerns were handled in a department focused on business interests.  The Nature report reflects concerns that things will return to where they were before.

Couple this with the fallout of the scandal over misused expense money of Members of Parliament – one UK science advocate will not be able to run for re-election – and the squabbling over the recent research evaluation and I can see why science advocates may be concerned.  However, nothing definitive has happened yet with respect to DIUS, and it’s likely far down the list of concerns for the embattled Labour government, which looks to take losses in the current European Parliamentary elections.

5 Responses to “Shaky UK Government May Affect Science Policy”

  1. Bishop Hill Says:

    Presumably this is only a concern if the government doesn’t throw in the towel in the near future. It’s quite possible that they could collapse and announce an election.

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  3. David Bruggeman Says:

    My non-rigorous sampling of commentary on this subject suggests that science advocates in the UK think things would likely get worse under a Tory government. I have no idea if this is true or not, since the Conservatives of 2009 appear to be a different animal from those of 1997.

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  5. John Lish Says:

    Regardless of who controls the government after 2010 David, you should expect that things will get worse. The current administration has announced real spending cuts in order to pay for the borrowing caused by the financial crisis from 2011 onwards.

    As for the meaning of the DIUS disappearing, these are mere baubles which the Prime Minister gives and takes away. Its rather the individual in charge of the department controlling the spending who will determine the level of cuts experienced. Will science have a champion? Its a matter of luck as to who is chosen to run the department. That’s the reality of British politics.

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  7. David Bruggeman Says:

    The Ministerial team for the new Department is available online, though specific responsibilities are not currently accessible.

    Lord Mandelson is in charge, who from what comment traffic I’ve seen, is considered an enemy of ‘blue sky’ research. Lord Drayson appears to remain as science minister. For what it’s worth, he seems active on Twitter – – and will take some time off to race in Le Mans later this month. American politicians this eccentric don’t last nearly as long.

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  9. UK Minister Encourages Businesses to Reach Out to Universities « Pasco Phronesis Says:

    [...] recently made his first education address since taking over.  The new leadership reflects a reorganization of the government with respect to science and higher education, one which has raised concern in some quarters.  [...]