The Royal Society welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Select Committee’s important and timely inquiry into the health of the science and innovation system in the wake of last year’s Spending Review. The Society has argued consistently over the last year that, whatever short-term measures are necessary, over the medium to longer term the UK must retain its scientific excellence, its leading scientists and the foreign investment they attract. Any cuts must be administered carefully so that they do not cause lasting damage and can be reversed when the public finances allow.
The Royal Society has welcomed the relative protection afforded to budgets for scientific research. However, we have also expressed concerns about cuts to key investments that threaten to destabilise the science and innovation system. It is still too early to say what the impact of these cuts will be, but we can offer some pointers towards issues of particular vulnerability.
There are a number of other current policy decisions which could have unpredictable impacts on the UK research system, in particular in relation to reforms to higher education. It is unclear how these reforms might affect individual disciplines and institutions, or how they may alter the choices of future career cohorts.
The impact of recent funding settlements and other policy decisions will not become clear until 2013-14. It will be important to identify how any adverse impacts might be addressed or reversed in future Spending Reviews.