Science cuts and brain drains

Posted on September 23, 2010 by

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The Lords Science & Technology Select Committee wrote to David Willetts today with a warning that funding cuts to science could mean world-class scientists choosing to work elsewhere.

They had invited him in front of them back in July and had touched on the value of highly skilled researchers and what attracts and retains them in the UK, raising concerns that talk of budget cuts was making the UK less attractive. Willetts asked for details.

Mr Willetts: Those are all very fair and important arguments. I hope it would not be too impertinent, my Lord Chairman, to suggest that one thing that might be helpful, in some ways (a reversal of the conventions) is that if the members of this Committee, with the expertise of the members of this Committee, have empirical evidence of these effects – hard figures, estimates that are robustly based – then I and the department would be very interested to see them, because they clearly are very relevant considerations, and we are at the stage where the more of this kind of evidence that we can consider would be very useful as part of the CSR process.

And this letter contains the details. The Committee wrote to the Vice-Chancellors of six research intensive universities asking for examples of any difficulties they have encountered in recent years recruiting and retaining researchers and how they expected reductions in funding might impact on that. You can check out the committee’s website here for all the letters they sent and responses they received.

The Committee concluded from the responses they got that

there is a significant risk that a worsening differential in funding between the UK and other countries will damage the ability of UK universities to attract and retain high quality researchers, and provide recent examples of the difficulties they have experienced in recruiting staff.

and have asked the Government to

describe what steps they are taking in order to identify the likely impact of proposed funding cuts on the recruitment and retention of high quality researchers in the UK and what robust mechanisms will be put in place to monitor that impact.

Posted in: Policy