Cuts to public research budget threaten UK government’s ambition of being science superpower

Leading UK academics and members of the parliament have urged the UK government to reverse its short- and long-term cuts to the UK public research budget. Academics and parliamentarians noted that the cuts risk thwarting the government’s ambition of being a science superpower in the coming decade, as outlined in its recently published Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.

Critics of the government's approach, point to the immediate short-term costs of the intended 70% cut in 2021-22 to UK official development assistance (ODA) funded research, noting that it will jeopardize COVID-19 research programs underway, including those supporting genomic analysis, as well as studies of transmission and treatment.

However, they also point to long-term concerns regarding funding for the UK’s continued participation in the Horizon Europe research program. Previously, funding for UK participation came from its EU membership fees, but now that the UK has exited the EU, there is a large hole in the budget.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the main public science funding body, estimates that it could have to pay £2.0 billion (US$2.7 billion) a year from its current £8.5 billion (US$11.4 billion) budget to maintain British participation in the EU research program. Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of the UKRI, has noted, however, that UKRI is in active discussions with the government on how it can help to ensure the UK maintains engagement in the program.

News article - Financial Times