The big thing today was the final one of the three Leader’s Debates, broadcast on the BBC, which concentrated on the economy. David Cameron made the first mention of science and the importance of investment in science. According to the worms (instant reaction opinion polls) of MORI and Newsnight, the response to the mention was warm among the gathered members of the general public involved. This speaks to the heart of the #SciVote case – people do have an underlying interest in and respect for science, but it hasn’t been explored fully in the election campaign – a point made by Susan Watts in this BBC article on comments by Dr Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).
Now although the party leaders could run from science in this debate, in the Digital Debate, things were a little harder for them. As I mentioned in a previous roundup, members of the public submitted questions to a debate hosted jointly by facebook and youtube. The questions were then voted for and the top two in each category went through to the leaders, each of whom provided a vox-pop answer. A question submitted by Colin Forsyth of MSSL on behalf of the Magnetospheric Ionospheric Solar Terrestrial (MIST) community trounced all others in its category to become top question. All ten questions can be seen here. The answers on science funding (and the ability to vote for your favourate) are here, and the answers with no facility to vote are below:
The question itself was:
There has been a collapse in funding for young scientists in astronomy, space sciences and nuclear physics. How will you protect the UK’s investment in these sciences, prevent a “brain drain” of talent and boost the UK’s position as a science leader?
The Royal Society has since 2001 been promoting a thing called the Royal Society Pairing Scheme, that puts together research scientists and either MPs or Civil Servants in order for one to understand the mysterious ways of the other. Specifically, the aims are:
- To help scientists recognise the potential methods and structures through which they can feed their scientific knowledge to parliamentarians.
- To help practising research scientists understand the pressures under which MPs operate.
- To give MPs and Civil Servants the opportunity to forge direct links with a network of practising research scientists.
- To give MPs and Civil Servants the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the process of scientific understanding and topical research and ultimately to be able to bring this knowledge into better informed discussions and decision making.
Applications for this year’s pairings close on May 7th, by which time some idea of the composition of the greater part of the next parliament will be known. Just goes to show, if we can’t get scientists in there one way, there’s always another…
…and finally, it has been noted in this debate that one area of science on which all of the three main parties have been developing a relatively strong debate on is climate change and developing a mix of energy sources to cope with it and provide the country with appropriate ‘energy security’ (limited reliance on anyone else’s electricity to run the country on). To that end, there is a free lecture being given by professor Steven Cowley on “Fusion Power – the Era of burning plasmas” at 7pm on the fourth of May at Pevensey 1, Sussex University, where you can learn how developments in science can potentially render a complex argument dead in the water. Something a comment in a previous daily roundup alluded to here some time ago.