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back to article Universities warn Willetts on science cuts

Jostling for cash ahead of the coalition government's slash-and-burn, six leading universities have told Science Minister David Willetts that the UK is at risk of losing its best researchers because of real or perceived shortfalls in funding. When Willetts gave evidence to the House of Lords Committee on Science and Technology …

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Bronze badge

Returning

"referred to two senior researchers who returned to posts in the United States"

If they're returning it's hardly a brain drain is it?

Honestly, they're all out with the begging bowl at the moment, the police, social services..... You can't take money from us, think of the children!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Returning

well the point is they were in Britain, and then left because of financial shortfalls. UK science isn't run solely by and for UK scientists.

This returning refers to going back to positions which were reopened to accommodate the persons in question. Oddly, considering they are respected scientists, their previous institution jumped at the opportunity to take them back.

I could throw in more supporting anecdotal evidence from personal experience, the number of post-doc and research positions have been cut, the pay in the UK is not attractive (especially when you have dependents), comments made by the head of the STFC, cuts to big science projects (Diamond, ISIS, ILL, ESRF, CERN, ITER) so my peers and I jumped ship and fully intend on keeping a wide berth.

Our debts in the UK are massive (student loans, CC, overdrafts). The nice thing about research is there are plenty of countries around the world who are actively trying to recruit more scientists, all part of some bizarre plan to remain scientifically/intellectually/technologically competitive in the future.

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Gold badge
Joke

Remain scientifically/intellectually/technologically competitive in the future

The US/UK and several other major western powers have really shifted away from science and towards banking. "Financial services" apparently are what they are betting the farm on. I think the problem is that they haven’t played Civ V yet. You can’t buy technologies from other civs anymore. Nor can you trade for them as part of diplomatic concessions. The closest you can come is joint research pacts. (250 gold to get the next technology your join nation develops. They pay the same and get your next tech.)

You still have to fund the research internally if you don’t want to be fighting tanks with spearmen. They also fixed the combat so that spearmen can’t lay waste to a stack of tanks quite so easily any more.

Maybe if your politicians were playing the latest version they would realise this “Betting our entire society on a bunch of greedy bankers doing things that most of the greedy bankers don’t even understand” was a really dumb move.

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Paris Hilton

It is better not to waste breath?

The Tories in whatever form love cuts - it is part of their essential behaviour and motivation into getting into power.

And they do value finance on the other hand tend to poorly value effects of that finance (with or without).

There is always the next general election yes/no?

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Troll

oh well

at least the UK will always be good at....

nevermind

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Silver badge

I Wonder...

Will just as much scrutiny be applied to bulshit mickey mouse degrees (meeja sutudies et al) which contribute less than nothing to society?

or is it to be a case of a gubbermunt that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.... again.

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Don't worry

When our science and engineering base is dwindling, that in the Universities of the far east is surging ahead. We'll be able to send our best and brightest over there for an education in the future. Just as long as they learn Mandarin at school.

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Austerity....

I'm always fearful when that term gets bandied about. It has the feel of "mourning" in a puritanical society. Don't smile -- mourning/austerity. Don't run -- mourning/austerity.

Austerity is an excuse for life to stop, but life cannot stop. If we stop thinking about the future, we make no progression towards it. Education and research is our future, so the usual murmur of "austerity" is no good excuse. Invest in the future or we shall be forever whispering austerity.

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Silver badge

There's a lot to cut

When I left for the USA 10years ago, professor salaries topped out at around 36K, a senior lecturer got less than the starting salary at a Cambridge spinout.

Those salaries more than doubled under the last lot, and the number of posts doubled - i know a bunch of people that have returned from the US.

There are a lot of reasons the system is crap in the UK but funding isn't currently one of them

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Silver badge

Other way round

There's probably more range in US salaries than in the UK where there is a single national pay spine for academics; but American salaries are generally higher across the board. Second tier universities in California appoint academics at salaries equating to some £50k, the big boys will be much more generous.

At the top UK academic salaries become dizzying as the pay packets of the various VCs will demonstrate.

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Cut gonzo science, no?

It seems critical to stuff climatology. It is largely a postmodern construction, parasitic on real science and real statistics, and which post-Climategate is giving all science a bad name with World+Dog. This needs to happen before 'climatology' rebrands itself as a 'humanity' and gets away (again) scotch free to die another day.

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Anonymous Coward

Real Science

"It seems critical to stuff climatology. It is largely a postmodern construction, parasitic on real science and real statistics, and which post-Climategate is giving all science a bad name with World+Dog. This needs to happen before 'climatology' rebrands itself as a 'humanity' and gets away (again) scotch free to die another day."

Whether you like it or not, real science is a consensus activity. Most scientists agree on ACC. Sure some don't. But just as many don't believe in general relativity or HIV being a retrovirus. Indeed, CHI has accrued far more valid criticism than ACC ever will. Let's see you cast QM as a postmodern construction.

In truth, it is people like you, with no real scientific training and no concept of the philosophy of science who give science a bad name. Objective truth is an anachronism best left to the religiotards. Please keep up.

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Anonymous Coward

By the way ...

Real statistics!? How the fuck can statistics be considered to make any kind of ontologically valid statement about one single universe.

I am Spider Jerusalem, and I hate it here.

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FAIL

Cut the police. Severely.

(This applies to the US, but I'm sure it applies to the UK, too. Slightly off topic, anyway.)

Cut the police. Sack a good lot of them. Fire literally every single cop who has ever done anything wrong. The same goes for politicians. Can the war on drugs, tell the Mexicans we'll take care of their cartel problem, give all of them citizenship and tell them to be nice or else, and start selling drugs legally with a huge tax on them. It'll certainly make us tons of money. (For you in the UK - Can the Eurofighter, tell the French we'll take care of their Roma problem for them, and launch them out of big giant cannons at any invading forces. It'll certainly be cheaper.)

Then simultaneously lower the cost of attending public university while raising the requirements to graduate. Offer incentives for kids to finish high school, such as a free pair of Doc Martens and a nice good head shaving (they're the twats who need to stay in school the most, yes?) or the likes. Disincentivize business degrees (not because I dislike business, quite to the contrary, I fucking love money, but business degrees teach you absolutely fuckall about business) and incentivize science, mathematics, history and arts degrees. Require high school level teachers to have Masters degrees but offer significantly higher pay so that it becomes extremely worthwhile to pursue teaching as a career. Tie teachers' pay and job security to their performance. etc.

I agree that this is sort of coming off like passing around the begging bowl, but cutting funding to education is never a good idea. Fire shitty teachers and professors, yes, so they utilize less resources and the good ones get more, but never, ever cut funding to an all ready flailing program, as you'll just guarantee it sinks further.

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Silver badge
Go

I'll support those cuts...

... and ones to the Armed Forces and Civil Service etc *PROVIDED* you start at the *TOP*.

We are definitely in the position of "Too many Chiefs" whose main job is to warm seats and shuffle lots of paperwork (usually in the form of "reports") to make it look as if they are indispensible which the poor bloody infantry (or equivalent) are trying to do more and more with less and less and new recruits are harder and harder to get because the resources are just not there to support them and train them to do the jobs that are desperately required.

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Gold badge

@Graham Marsden

"We are definitely in the position of "Too many Chiefs" whose main job is to warm seats and shuffle lots of paperwork (usually in the form of "reports") to make it look as if they are indispensible which the poor bloody infantry (or equivalent) are trying to do more and more with less and less and new recruits are harder and harder to get because the resources are just not there to support them and train them to do the jobs that are desperately required."

Are you talking here about the military, or corporations? You just described almost every company I have ever encountered. Similarly, I think you also just described (almost) every public bureaucracy I have ever encountered. (Social Services and Health Care in many parts of my province would be exempt. They went through a senior-level culling not to long ago and never regenerated the lost chiefs.)

Seriously though…PERFECT description of most mid-large corporations I’ve had the misfortune of dealing with.

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Bronze badge
Alien

The UK doesn't only offer pay, but high costs and lower living standards

Full-time research & teaching posts pay reasonably well; but basic post-graduate and PhD work is terribly poorly paid.

I wonder if the quality of living affects researchers choices on where to live - five out of the six universities quoted are all based in cities where accommodation is very expensive. An £18k per annum research allowance would barely pay for a one-bedroom flat in inner London. Lots of other things are cheaper in the USA too - food, petrol, clothes - and in most places the weather is brighter than the UK.

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Alert

We need to do something about thsi before it is too late

Nations with foresight are investing in their future. The UK science base is already the most efficient in the world (arguably) and amongst the most fertile by any measure, but significant cuts will wreak huge damage and cripple us for a generation or more. We're about to chow down on our seed corn. Stupid stupid stupid.

Fight the cuts. Visit http://scienceisvital.org.uk/ to join the campaign/march/lobby.

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Jobs Halo

Time for a narrower focus

We do not have to fund everything, but what we do should be properly funded. Funding for big projects like the Large Hadron Collider is just mounting for bragging rights.

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@Andrew Martin 1

Spooky prediction.

"UK graduates flock to China for job opportunities" (*unpaid* interns) - http://courses-careers.com/jobs-and-careers/career-sectors/7953-uk-graduates-flock-to-china-for-job-opportunities.html

"More UK students should study in China, according to Britain’s new coalition government." - http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/News/pressreleases/2010/September/MinisterChinaMoreStudents.aspx

<Lots more doom and gloom links omitted>

With not enough UK courses left, more students are trying abroad for a placement (as reported in the news). It will be interesting to see the fallout from this; for those attending education establishments that have not been through the purported "dumbing down" as we have. We might get real numbers to work with that support or deny the 'Idiocracy in the UK' conjecture - based on dropout rates not related to culture clash/shock or kept on as revenue generating intellectual zombies. At least for the survivors, they might get a better education than in the UK.

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Paris Hilton

ah but the shame seems to be...

... that these are university types knowing full well that serious cuts in funding are the order of the day.

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