UK science research too tied to economic returns? or, be careful what you wish for

Back in January and February I blogged that science was being seen as key to economic recovery: MPs, including the PM, said so. I was pretty excited about that. Any excuse for more science funding is a good thing.

Well, maybe I should have been more cautious. Perhaps the linking of science and money has gone too far.

I blogged in May about a Guardian article that pointed out that researchers applying for grants must quantify the economic returns of their research. That was worrisome: science needs funding, sure, but it can’t always predict what it’s going to produce.

It’s getting worse. After the political struggle of recent weeks Gordon Brown effected some cabinet reshuffles. One of those shuffles means that theDepartment for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) – a UK organisation I’ve blogged about before and that I think a lot of – is no more. It’s been merged with the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform to form the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, headed by Peter Mandelson.

The pendulum has swung too far, I think. The Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee (how many committees are there, anyway?)thinks so, too. Believing science can aid our economic recovery is one thing; making it inseparable from realising profit is quite another.