Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Liberal Democrats Champion Science And Research

Cambridge MP Julian Huppert

At the forthcoming Liberal Democrat Conference, delegates will debate proposals by Dr Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, to support science and research across the UK.

Julian, who was a scientist at the University of Cambridge before his election to Parliament, has developed a detailed package of measures to support pure and applied research and development.

Dr Huppert’s proposals are outlined in a policy paper, Developing a Future: Policies for Science and Research, which will be presented to the Liberal Democrat’s autumn conference. The package deals with three key areas – funding, people and skills, and the role of scientific advice.

Highlights include a target to increase the ringfenced government science budget above inflation over the next 15 years, a commitment to improved science and maths teaching in schools and immigration rules that encourage bona fide students and experts to come to the UK.

“Despite low levels of funding, the UK has outperformed other countries, some which invest almost twice as much in research and development,” said Dr Huppert. “There is clear evidence that government investment in research and development incentivises and creates the conditions for additional private sector investment.”

There should also be greater flexibility in the immigration system to allow researchers and scientists from outside the European Economic Area to bring their specialist skills to the UK.

“One of the key contributions to the UK's success in the sciences has been our ability to attract researchers and scientists from across the world, allowing free exchange of knowledge and ideas,” said Dr Huppert. “If we do not have an immigration system that actively encourages top scientists and academics to come to the UK then they will go elsewhere.”

There should not be undue restrictions on bona fide students, said Dr Huppert, and, to that end, there are proposals to revise the UN standard on immigrants so that students could be distinguished from other migrants in the published statistics.

Improving science and maths education in schools is also a priority to inspire the next generation, he said. The quality of maths and science teacher training at primary level needs to be reviewed, and more encouragement given to maths and science graduates to teach in primary schools.

“The United Kingdom must develop an education and training system to produce a highly-skilled workforce that supports research and innovation,” said Dr Huppert.

“These proposals challenge the way the government thinks about science, redirecting money to where it benefit the economy, improving our ability to attract the brightest minds and giving the next generation the skills they need to compete in an ever-changing world,” he said.

Developing A Future: Policies For Science and Research by Dr. Julian Huppert is available here (via Google Docs).