Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Does my MP think that science is vital?

The Science is Vital campaign is coming into full swing again, ready for the UK general election. And with good reason. Take a look at that graph.

In the UK we spend a lower percentage of GDP on science than any other G8 country. Our spending has fallen by 15% in real terms since 2010. Germany, the USA and France are all spending around twice as high a percentage of GDP. We simply can't afford to keep ignoring our failing investment in science and it ought to be higher on the political agenda this election.

Why is this important? The reasons come in at all sorts of levels. There's a grounding of 'this is how our universe works - how can it not be important?' There's the enrichment of people's lives in knowing about it - and keeping the interest of children at school, who get turned off it and lose our country important resources.

But also there's a combination of business and survival. It has been estimated that around 35% of GDP is based on quantum physics alone (electronics, lasers, superconductors etc.) - and there's far more when you take in all of science. And everything from medical science to environmental science is central to our survival as a race.

Yet the fact is that very few MPs understand science. The vast majority are arts graduates and make little or no effort to understand what they make spending decisions on. We even have an MP on the science and technology committee who believes we should use astrology more. Unless we make our politicians more aware of the importance of this issue, we risk all our futures. It's that important.

So Science is Vital has encouraged us to write to our local MPs to ask for their support. Mine is Justin Tomlinson. He is a Tory, which means he is not someone I'd naturally support, but he has proved an effective constituency MP in the past. True to form he emailed me back after three days with the following reply. It does seem something of a politician's reply, not saying anything about our miserable spending level, sadly.
Swindon is indeed home to a vast array of science and high technology companies, many of which I have visited during my time as your MP, to see the excellent work that they do.

I know that both Greg Clark and George Freeman (the current Science and Life Sciences Ministers respectively) and their predecessors get how important science is, particularly to our town. Both Ministers have visited Swindon recently and alongside my South Swindon colleague, Robert Buckland, we have taken them to see the amazing work being done by companies and at research facilities across our town.

I will of course feed your thoughts into the policy-making process and continue to champion the excellent work being done here in Swindon.
Not a major response at this stage, then - but we can hope that if more of us (more of you!) contact our MPs, the message will start to get across.

What are you waiting for? Hop over to the Science is Vital site for the information you need to contact your MP and get emailing.

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