O'Really?

August 12, 2008

Who funds Science in Britain?

Unon Jack by bambi851The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is full of scientists. All kinds of scientists working in biology, chemistry and physics, as well as plenty of mathematicians, engineers and technologists too work in the UK. They make their living in good old Blighty, pushing forward the boundaries of human knowledge, wherever and whenever they can. Nanotechnology, astronomy, molecular biology, primatology, climatology and lots of other ‘ologies can all be found in Britain. Who is it that pays them and how much money do they spend? Here is a list of funding bodies in 2008, along with their annual budgets and chief executives. It is not a comprehensive list, because it does not include all charities, European money and privately funded Science. However, it does cover most of the larger funding bodies…

Funding body Area of research Current Chief Annual Budget
bbsrc.ac.uk Biotechnology and Biological Sciences. “Academic research and training in the non-clinical life sciences”. Douglas Kell £400 million
cancerresearchuk.org Dedicated to Cancer Research Harpal Kumar £6 million*
epsrc.ac.uk Engineering and Physical Sciences, “making and breaking things” (my words, not theirs). David Delpy £740 million
jisc.ac.uk “The Joint Information Systems Committee‘s mission is to provide world class leadership in the innovative use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to support education and research.” Ron Cooke £64 million
mrc.ac.uk Medical Research “encourages and supports research with the aim of maintaining and improving human health.” Leszek Borysiewicz £537 million
nerc.ac.uk Natural Environment, “increases knowledge and understanding of the natural world by tackling the 21st century’s major environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity and natural hazards”. Alan Thorpe £366 million
stfc.ac.uk Science & Technology Facilities Council, astronomy, particle physics, space science and nuclear physics. Keith Mason £400 million
royalsociety.org the UK’s independent National Academy of Science, funding and promoting “excellence in science”. Martin Rees £51 million
wellcome.ac.uk “funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas.” Mark Walport £520 million
UK Total £3,084 million (£3 billion)
erc.europa.eu European Research Council aims to “stimulate scientific excellence by supporting and encouraging the very best, truly creative scientists, scholars and engineers to be adventurous and take risks in their research. The scientists are encouraged to go beyond established frontiers of knowledge and the boundaries of disciplines“. Since this is European money, some but not all of it is available in Britain. Fotis Kafatos €1.5 billion **

(*I’m told CRUK spends more like £300 million than £6m but can’t find a citation for this)

(**See also wikipedia, ERC has been given a budget of €7.5 billion from 2007 to 2013, equivalent to about €1.5 billion per year)

A Nation of Scientists?

It has been said that Britain is a nation of shopkeepers, gardeners, curtain-twitchers, musicians, gossips, entrepreneurs, artists, novelists, politicians and other weird people.

With relentless globalisation, nationality looks like an increasingly odd concept. But with more than £3 billion spent every year on Science in the UK, if Britain is a nation of anything, it is a nation of Scientists.

[Creative Commons licensed picture of the Union Jack flag projected on Buckingham Palace by bambi851]


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1 Comment »

  1. […] a game changer. Poland has ca. 30 times less money in available grants than UK (according to calculation of the UK research budget by Duncan Hull). In biology, which is a very expensive field, it simply means that we have a hard time competing […]

    Pingback by Science 2.0 – introduction and perspectives for Poland « Freelancing science — May 18, 2009 @ 9:21 pm | Reply


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