Libel Reform Next Step
I officially have permission to attend the Mass Lobby at the Commons on Tuesday, hurrah.
If you’re in London and can be there 13:00-17:00, do e-mail your MP to notify them of your attendance and come along. We can get this done.
Big Libel Gig Epic Win
Sunday was the amazingly successful Big Libel Gig – many thanks to all of the organisers, I haven’t laughed so much in ages. Click the link for Skepchick’s audio and video coverage featuring interviews with the performers.
Fantastic photos from Robert Sharp of English Pen here.
Friend+co-nerd @GeekintheGambia and I are both very proud of contributing to Ariane Sherine’s Simon Singh-Song (rhyming ‘bogus’ and ‘locusts’! Well, sort of…). Comediennes by proxy, indeed.
Stephen Curry writes a great review here, recalling Ben Goldacre’s sombre account of his battle against Matthias Rath.
We’d had a good laugh earlier at the expense of chiropractic and homeopathic nutcases. But this was deadly serious. The point was, the point is: libel can be seriously deadly.
In the midst of all the comics, cracking us up completely, Ben reminded us of the human cost of unscrupulous quacks going unchallenged – it’s not just people who don’t know better wasting their money, it’s thousands of people dying unnecessarily.
Science Needs You!
Prof. Cox also did his bit to inspire us and reiterate that science is in desperate need of funding – what little we have now is in danger of being cut by the next government and we all need to make sure they rethink.
He gave a great talk on Monday at Westminster Skeptics, with Martin Robbins noting how much this depressing prospect managed to dampen Brian’s ever-present enthusiasm. Listen to the whole talk on the Pod Delusion.
Some key points from Brian:
- of the £620bn public spend of 2008/2009, only ~£3.5bn went to the Research Councils and ~£7bn to universities. Compare this to the £109bn to the treasury, up nearly 50% on the previous year (due to bank bailouts)!
- The UK is pitifully far down the list of top science-spenders, behind the USA, Germany, Canada, France and others, despite us producing about 8% of all papers and taking the most EU funding. The US has spent about $21bn on its science and is recruiting many foreign academics, particularly from the UK.
- While our science spend has doubled in terms of £s, in real terms it has plateaued as the GDP must be taken into account (however, talking to an economist in our drinking circle, the GDP is an odd thing to look at anyway; paying a cleaner loads of money doesn’t necessarily mean more science gets done, and indeed may hamper it, considering a colleague’s tale of falling on a clean, shiny floor and smashing the precious sample he was carrying!)
- 40-45% of the economy relies on the science spend (and 6.4% on physics specifically) in terms of educational output; the ‘knowledge-intensive services’ – cutting this budget will have no impact on the deficit but will have a profoundly negative impact on science and, consequently, the whole economy. University physics has faced 20-40% cuts.
- ‘Impact’ is a difficult term to define and quantifying the benefits of science investment near impossible. However, CERN is responsible for the development of the World Wide Web for one thing and every hospital in the country runs services based on physics findings (MRI, PET, etc.). It costs the British taxpayer only ~£2/year to fund CERN; less than running a European university.
And from Dr. Evan Harris, MP – how to decipher politics-talk:
- When listening to Mandelsson, remember: the budget is part of the spend. ‘Double the budget’ does not equal ‘double the science spend’.
- Not increasing the budget will mean that we fall behind; a pause is equal to a cut.
- “We have no plans” doesn’t mean there isn’t a plan to make cuts; it just means it hasn’t been announced yet.
- “We are not looking to” does not mean “we are not going to”
- Private investment can be boosted by increasing public investment
- The media is critical because that’s the area in which politicians work
Why should science be an election issue?
Finally, Nick Dusic, the director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering points out:
We have to raise science as an election issue – bring politicians to the lab!
Show them what issues face us as researchers (well, mainly £££!).
Their blog is at: http://www.sciencecampaign.org.uk
So far it seems that this is a faceless problem, maybe we need a figurehead (like Simon).
A friend of mine, Andy Reeve (@andyreeve77) has set up the Science Needs You campaign so please look him up on Facebook/Twitter and go along to the event in Norwich on April 18th if you can. Edit 2015: join Science is Vital to continue the fight!
Finally, again more for my amusement…
Edit: Suzanne Moore has even taken this issue, following WSitP, to the ‘enemy camp’ of the Fail on Sunday! Comments are flooding in.