Today will finally see the announcement of where the axe falls on the first £6 billion of cuts – and how much of that will be borne by science and related budgets. The Times indicates that Vince Cable’s department for Business Innovation and Skills, which houses the science budget, is in line for £900 million of the cuts (as the government’s fourth largest spender, it takes a significant hit with the NHS, Defence and International Development ringfenced).
£200 million of that will be reinvested back into the department, but the same amount will be shaved off the universities, the pared down remnant of Mandelson’s cuts. The Times also specifically indicates in this article that science and the universities, the brief of David Willetts, will be “relatively” protected compared to the rest of the department, with a smaller hit than might be expected on the other budgets within the department of state.
Also in the news, the first shots have been fired on reform of the libel laws. In this article, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill sets out the case for his forthcoming Private Member’s Bill (a non or unofficial governmental law put before parliament, of which a limited number are allowed during a given session). Science and the case of Simon Singh are highlighted as one of the driving forces behind the much needed reforms.
And finally, the Campaign for Science and Engineering has examined the new editions of the Ministerial Code and Cabinet Committee system to see how, if at all, science has been ingrained into government. On the former, mixed feelings are reported on the inclusion of the Principles of Scientific Advice to Ministers. While it is welcome that the relationship between scientific advisers and ministers has been codified, it is felt that the particular codification is a little weak on scientific independence. On the Cabinet Committee system, it is notable that the Science and Universities Minister, David Willetts has been made a full member of a 13 member committee on Economic Affairs (his predecessor wasn’t a member of the 18 person Economic Development Committee). No news of a Science and Innovations committee yet, but then again the full list has yet to be published.