I responded to Duncan’s comment somewhat incoherently:
UK must invest heavily in scientific research … economic competitive advantage
I’m not cross at Duncan, not by any means. No, my ire is directed at those public servants, those ‘leading members of both major parties’ who have, apparently, ‘agreed that the UK must invest heavily in scientific research if it is to maintain its economic competitive advantage’.
And this is the whole damnable point, isn’t it? By justifying science–research, what most of my friends do every single day of their undervalued lives–in terms of financial or economic gain we reduce the pursuit of science (ennobled by every lab rat from Aristotle through Newton, Jenner and Heatley right up to and including Hawking) to the level of a whore hawking her tatty wares in Camden telephone boxes to the highest bidder.
Do we really want to make every piece of scientific research done in this country measurable in terms of its impact in pounds and pence–contingent on that impact? Is that what we all–everyone here who says ‘oh, science brings in more than we spend’–want? To have a field on each grant application form that says ‘Enumerate the pecuniary benefit of your proposed research’? To take away money from basic research, the research of Einstein and Rutherford and–why not?–Curry and Rohn, to feed the capacious maw of the Treasury?
I feel my favourite cartoon coming on.