British science budgets protected in age of austerity

20:19, December 13, 2010      

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It snowed early and heavily this year in Britain, which brought chill into the campus of the Imperial College, the prestigious science-based institution in London.

However, it is fairly warm in the office of Professor Stephen Curry, who just co-organized a successful campaign to protect the science budget when the whole country went on an austerity plan.

"We were certainly surprised that the settlement was more in our favor than we had expected," said Curry, referring to the Spending Review announced by the government in October.

The Spending Review outlines the government budget to 2015, which heavily slashes the budget of many departments. For example, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which oversees science in Britain, will see its overall capital budget fall by 44 percent.

But the science budget finally escaped the axe, maintaining 4.6 billion pounds (around 7.3 billion U.S. dollars) in cash terms over the period, which was seen as a victory by many scientists and observers.

"It was a historic moment," commented William Cullerne Bown, a senior analyst and founder of the science-policy newsletter Research Fortnight, who presented a bouquet of white lilies and roses to David Willetts, Britain's minister for science, in a press briefing for the budget.

Willetts said: "We have a fantastic deal for the scientific community."

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