Today at Business Questions Shadow Science Minister Chi Onwurah highlighted the concerning impact the pandemic has had on the future of UKs world leading science and research base.
Chi said “we are all grateful to Britain’s world leading scientists blazing a trail of hope in this terrible pandemic. But how is Government protecting sciences future? Medical charity research is predicted to fall by over 4 billion pounds after Government refused support. University research has only been offered loans to cover losses from international students whilst 90% of UK researchers are excluded from support even though the virus prevents them finishing their research.”
This follows an IPPR report which found that 10% of all medical research may be at risk of cancellation due to the pandemic. The IPPR model predicts that investment by UK medical research charities will fall by £4.1bn over the next six years. Charity medical research currently funds over 17,000 researchers in the UK. Nearly half of all PhD students feel that they may have to disengage from their research due to financial pressures.
Chi asked “Postgraduate research students from the NINE doctoral training programmes have written to demand action given the “escalating scale of the crisis” and there is a massive reduction in funding for early career researchers. Why isn’t Government protecting the future of the science which is protecting us?”
However, the Secretary of State accused Chi of “living in a parallel universe” for raising these issues, emphasising our existing strengths and failing entirely to concerns for the next generation of UK researchers.
He said: “ I think the Honourable Lady must be living in a parallel universe, if we look at the vaccine rollout where we’ve seen nearly 12.3 million people vaccinated we can see the strength of the UK science base”
Chi said “The Secretary of State is right that the UK is currently a world leader in science and research, but this government risks losing the next generation of researchers”
Notes for editors
- NINE doctoral programme letter https://fromninedtpstudents.blogspot.com/2021/01/UKRIopenletter.html
- IPPR report: https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/research-at-risk
- Chi’s question: https://twitter.com/ChiOnwurah/status/1359146242132090881
- 17,000 researchers’ salaries are funded by medical research charities, including 1,750 PhD students
- Funding uncertainties mean many could be forced to leave the profession, with two thirds of those surveyed relying entirely on charity funding for their salary.
- 61% of charities have had to cut or cancel support for early career researchers and skilled research roles
- 58% of charity-funded early career researchers have been unable to secure further funding since March
- 40% of charity-funded early career researchers are considering leaving medical research
- Research has shown that doctoral students face higher levels of stress than others. Research has shown that 45% of PhD students fear that they will be pushed beyond their financial capabilities and may have to disengage from their research.
- UKRI have made £62m of support available to 12,000 of over 100k doctoral students in the UK
- There has been no commitment to further extensions for PhD students from the Government despite the open ended nature of the pandemic
- PhD students from the NINE doctoral training programme have written to UKRI calling for support
- A recent editorial in the journal Nature concluded:
“Governments and research funders must recognize that this urgent situation demands an urgent response. Postdocs are the future of science, and the lifeblood of the research workforce. If they don’t receive some extra financial help soon, research — and society as a whole — will bear the consequences of denying a lifeline to the next generation of researchers, inventors and innovators.”