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UK Scientists Leave Labs To Protest Expected Cuts 315

Posted by timothy
from the labour-practices dept.
uid7306m writes "The UK government is planning an austerity budget, in the wake of the financial crisis and banking bailouts. This involves a 25% overall cut in the government budget, and the indications are that it will hit UK science and university budgets strongly. In response to this, a campaign has started that has managed to get scientists out of their labs and into the streets."
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UK Scientists Leave Labs To Protest Expected Cuts

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  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Sunday October 10, 2010 @05:12AM (#33850682) Homepage

    But unless people have failed to notice, europe(and the UK along with it) is in some pretty bad financial straights. Science is a necessary thing, but if people and government has to take the pick between funding science or covering things like civil protection(police), medical/fire services(hospitals, doctors, ems response). It's pretty easy to tell where the cuts are going to happen first.

    Usually science, followed by teachers and police, followed by fire services, then medical.

  • what are you FOR? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @05:14AM (#33850690) Journal

    Why weren't you doing anything over the last decade while the government was intentionally building up a deficit? Where do you propose that the cuts be made, if not to your department? Alternatively, what other revenue sources do you suggest?

    There are many possible answers, but pretending to be some sort of apolitical brain who just wants to do science is not going to help you get popular support. Do you object to useless war? Do you think that the government should take a greater proportion of nationally owned bank profits, reducing salaries of bankers? Do you think that more measures should be put in place to stop tax avoidance schemes (hello Ashcroft!)? In short, what is going to pay for you?

  • by metageek (466836) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @05:15AM (#33850696)

    Sorry but you are arguing for fixing a short term issue by destroying the long term success of the country (people). Actually, the issue that got us into this mess is the one that should be cut, not the only sector of government spending that can pull us out of this mess. Worse even, you could cut all of science entirely and that would not even make a dent in the economy. Whereas if we stopped going around the world dropping bombs...

    Cut war budget first, then health. Those are the only two that can fix the problem. And even if they don't do it now, they will have to do it at some point. There is no escape.

  • by metageek (466836) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @05:24AM (#33850718)

    Cut the war budget first, then optimize the health spending. If you look at the government finances, you'll realize that those two are the only ones that are so large that making percentage cuts there could solve the deficit; cutting anything else won't make a difference.

    Science is investment, war is pure spending, health is a mix of spending and investment (the part relating to children and yound adults).

    The UK already has the most efficient science spending on record, as in £ spent per scientist over their productivity (measured any way you like, papers published, nobel prizes, technology transfer, etc.). So the argument that cuts will make it more efficient is bullshit, it will only make it less efficient and the population needs to know this. It is about time that scientists come out and explain these facts to the rest of the population, because the Daily Mail or The Sun will just propagate their propaganda...

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @05:28AM (#33850730)

    The important thing is that they made sure to save the rich bankers from their stupid decisions.

    That's a good thing and justifies laying waste to science.

    High pensions and special medical plan s for politicians are also much more important that basic research.

    Especially since any successful basic research would be quickly monetized with cheap chinese labor undercutting any potential return on the investment in scientific research.

  • by funkatron (912521) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @05:41AM (#33850772)
    How about, take the bank bailout money back? That would cover a lot of this funding. Then how about getting out of the stupid war the last government go into. And then we can look at the not quite so stupid war the last government go into. And then... maybe cutting parliament; everyone already tried to hang it so the public's opinion on the subject is pretty clear.
  • by faulteh (1869228) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @05:51AM (#33850810) Homepage

    For everyone not in the UK.

    Our research and science in Australia will climb the rankings by default, making us look good, increasing investment and licensing opportunities. We'll be able to keep hiring local talent, as well as recruit from soon to be unemployed talent in the UK, at discount rates! Sure, we may have to be China's butt-buddy, but at least we won't be dumb, poor and stupid.

    Egon, this reminds me of the time you tried to drill a hole in your head....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 10, 2010 @06:18AM (#33850880)

    Just cut the pay for all the people who got us into this situation in the first place...

    Politicians.

  • by turgid (580780) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @06:23AM (#33850894) Journal

    The UK has always been a terrible place for scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs trying to develop new technology. Just like everywhere else, we have great ideas but there is a total lack of vision when it comes to implementing them or even entertaining the idea that something may be useful in the future.

    I'm really disappointed with this new government's science policy. It is very similar to a Thatcherite one from the 1980 where the government would cut back science research and development spending and "target" what was left at things that would be or might be immediately useful to industry.

    That's not science, it's corporate technology R&D. It's the sort of things that companies can and should do.

  • by Dhalka226 (559740) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @06:46AM (#33850932)

    if people and government has to take the pick between funding science or covering things like civil protection(police), medical/fire services(hospitals, doctors, ems response). It's pretty easy to tell where the cuts are going to happen first.

    That's true, but it's a bullshit argument.

    For starters, science cuts are going to be an extremely small impact on the defecit, akin to claiming that if you can't afford your mortgage then it's time to not buy that cup of Starbucks coffee on Friday. It helps in the sense that every dollar helps, but it is so small an impact that it's almost not worth doing.

    If those are peoples' choices, then of course science is going to be cut first -- as it should be. But they're not. How much are the various wars costing you? How much are your politicians and government employees being paid? How much waste is there in your healthcare system? How much are you spending on your defense budget, security theater at the airports, CCTV installations, foreign aide, bank bailouts, commissioning reports nobody is ever going to ready or any other number of things that you can cut to more success and less detriment than science and education?

    If you're being presented with a choice between cutting science spending or emergency services to solve the budget problems, it's because people simply aren't looking hard enough.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 10, 2010 @06:47AM (#33850938)

    We're in this mess entirely because, yet again, the Labour goverment have overspent and got us into a £160bn/year deficit by allowing financial deregulation (yes, Labour actually made it worse) and no significant tax rises to compensate for the increase in spending. They've been in power for 13 years, so trying to blame the Tories for this one is laughable.

    Labour's spending got completely out of control, Gordon Brown actually believed his bullshit about being able to grow the economy without recession, and the banking crisis was the final straw which made it all go to shit.
    It's absolutely breathtaking how the left-wing are completely and utterly incapable of taking responsibility for their incompetence.

  • Does it matter? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @07:11AM (#33850990) Journal

    Politicians are NOT a large cost to the tax payer. They are not that highly paid and there are not that many of them. Now if you start talking about public sector workers. THEN you might be able to make some cuts especially at the top. But then you just won't get the people OR they will be contract workers instead and get paid even more.

    Cost cutting is extremely hard and doesn't help if people think cutting a million on a budget of billions is worth it.

    I don't understand cost cutting anyway. It is such a Wallstreet attitude. Oh, lets cut costs and increase profit. When has this ever worked longterm? A country isn't something you can buy up, cut it up and sell it off again. You are STUCK with Manchester. Cutting off useless people? France did that with the Roma... oopsie! Even just saying this is a big no-no. And it cost the Germans far more to kill a Jew then it ever saved them, even with recycling (harsh? But that is what traditional cost cutting applied to a country would be, you can't fire a population without firing up the ovens).

    I think the entire problem is that some people are convinced you can run a country at a profit/as a business.

    But countries are to big, to unwieldy and to long term for that. And it seems amazing to me that the business method to be followed is the western one (follow on core business, outsource everything else) when the real powerhouses in the business world are the (asian) conglomerates that do EVERYTHING. So, do we sell off the railways or keep them? I think I know what Siemens or Yamaha would say.

    The problem for the UK is NOT the amount of money it spends, but that this money ain't being generated. IF the UK still had a working production industry, still mattered with agri-culture, then the amount of spending doesn't matter. But if you outsource everything, close mines and hope to survive on oil benefits and selling of national industries, then you won't have anything to fall back on when the well has run dry.

    And if you cut public sector salaries then you only get the people who have no choice but to work for a reduced paycheck. Or are YOU volunteering to work for less pay in a thankless job?

    The UK needs to re-vitalize itself in all sectors. This requires SPENDING, not cost cutting. All the current government will do is posture, delay investments without making any meaningful savings and hand over the country in a worse state to the next unlucky bastard to win the election.

    Simple solution:

    A: Cut management layers in all sectors controlled by the state: Result, mass cost savings, tories lose the elections because their voter base is management.

    B: Cut foreign military procurement, buy local or keep old stuff around. Result: US president won't shake hands with the prime-minister.

    C: Ban closing and outsourcing of any further production, put serious tariffs on foreign goods to encourage local production. Result: Prime-minister will not be able to shake any hands, champagne prices go up.

    D: Invest in infra-structure and schooling, stop looking down on jobs like farmer, plumber and bricklayer, these are the jobs the economy runs on. You can't make people buy a locally made iPad, but you can make them use locally build walls.

    E: Tax the financial industry and regulate the hell out of it because it has never benefitted anyone but the filthy rich. Result: all those silly enough to think they are the filthy rich and that a tax on inheriticance of more then a million will ever affect the, will not vote for you.

    Oh these things are a bit simple, but smarter people then me have reasoned them out AND shown why no party, especially a right wing party can run with them. Sensible government isn't electable.

  • by geckipede (1261408) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @07:13AM (#33850998)
    If you have a science education good enough to do real research, then you could also get at one of the huge banks as a trader for something like 20 times the income. Anybody who has that kind of education and became a scientist has made the decision to not be part of the problem and be part of the solution.

    During the recovery, when old businesses resume normal operation and new businesses start up, it's the high tech manufacturing sector that lead the way. The work of scientists over the past decade is exactly what makes that sector's growth possible.
  • by cyber-vandal (148830) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @07:16AM (#33851016) Homepage

    I'll just mention the recent study that found most anti-depressants are no better than a placebo

    That's just one study, not an established medical fact. It does give cause for concern and merits more research but doesn't prove anything yet.

  • by cyber-vandal (148830) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @07:21AM (#33851034) Homepage

    LloydsTSB and HBOS on the other hand are worth quite a lot and it has been completely forgotten by most people that as soon as bank shares start climbing significantly we can clear a lot of debt by selling our preference shares. I doubt Osborne has forgotten and is planning a tax windfall around about 2015 after the ConDems have used the deficit as an excuse to completely trash the public sector.

  • by bloodhawk (813939) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @07:29AM (#33851058)
    People don't seem to get it, you all think the government bailed out these banks because they are rich and influential. Wake up, the bailouts happened to ensure the average worker got paid the next week. if the banks went under payroll would stop, atm's would stop dishing out money (even if it is rightfully yours) and basically the entire economy would grind to a standstill. It sickens me to see all those bankers that made bad decisions get saved, but it was a NECESSARY evil.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 10, 2010 @08:07AM (#33851164)

    f you're being presented with a choice between cutting science spending or emergency services to solve the budget problems, it's because people simply aren't looking hard enough.

    No, it's not that people aren't looking hard enough. It's about presenting false dichotomies like, oops, we don't have enough money we have to first take the teachers out of schools and cops off the street. There are many other better, and much less disruptive, choices to make, but to keep people approving higher spending the politicians present only options that they know people will realize they need, thus keeping all the waste, fraud, and corruption alive and well.

  • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @08:10AM (#33851174)

    But it was a NECESSARY evil.

    No it wasn't. They could have simply taken control of the banks instead of bailing them out. There was no need to leave any of the people in control or ownership who were in control or ownership at the time they caused the crisis. Oh, some of them should have been kept on as management, possibly in return for being allowed to keep some of the old pay they stole, but none of them should have been allowed to return to the ownership and control they had.

    If this had been done right, the various countries which did the bail outs would soon be in a situation where they could start selling the banks for a profit. .

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 10, 2010 @08:15AM (#33851190)

    I work for one of the UK Research Councils (the one that deals with science and technology facilities ;) ), and the first I heard of this campaign was seeing the rally on the BBC News site. Otherwise I would have been there, and I'd have done my very best to round up some colleagues and make a day of it.

    And, of the "famous" supporters on the front page of that website, I recognised one.

    Threaten to cut the arts, and they - literally - produce rock stars, outraged and instantly recognisable. Try to close a theatre, and you get [i]Gandalf[/i] on TV. How can science hope to compete with that, when it can't even get the message out to its own?

  • by DriedClexler (814907) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @09:26AM (#33851478)

    Congratulations: you're one of those they duped.

    Workers wouldn't get paid the next week? God, you'll fucking believe anything.

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @09:28AM (#33851488) Homepage Journal

    the UK pays people for their kids if they are in school, then thrown in all the horror stories of deadbeat families with pads bigger than most higher income people coupled with wide screens and the like and we can see that the UK suffers from an entitlement society of the worst kind. When you are in financial straights like the UK (the US needs to get a hint) everything must be on the table, even if it slows you down in the future a bit, if you don't make it to that future what did it matter?

  • by Burnhard (1031106) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @09:40AM (#33851556)
    How does it affect the long-term health of the country? Are you saying that not £0.01p of the budget is wasted? Perhaps offering 25% of cuts will concentrate minds in these establishments on what is important for the tax-payer to fund and what is a frivolous waste of money [bmj.com].
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @10:20AM (#33851760)

    You do realise that what you described there is pretty much what the UK government actually did, right?

    The government did take majority ownership of some of the organisations it bailed out, Lloyds for instance. A lot of the former senior execs have been forced to resign, though mostly in quiet handovers a few months after the mess rather than in a high-profile publicity stunt at the time. Investors did lose most of the value of their shares, as the bank stocks sank like a (northern) rock. And a lot of those high profile Bank of England loans to the less damaged banks did get paid back within a few weeks.

    I am far from convinced that the government did the right thing, or that they shouldn't have protected the banks' customers but let the banks themselves fail outright instead of taking on all that high-risk debt. Their public information management was terrible in terms of educating the population about what they were actually doing and why. But let's at least talk about what really happened, and not some arbitrary distortion just because banker-bashing is our new national hobby.

  • by vakuona (788200) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @10:46AM (#33851870)
    There are not enough jobs to go around. Welfare buys the country peace. If you cut down on welfare, you would have to increase spending on security, and prisons. I think capitalistic societies would fall apart very quickly without welfare.
  • by ultranova (717540) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @12:27PM (#33852512)

    How about we cut the welfare budget? Let people get what they earn, rather than what the govt gives them. That'll save 200bn a year.

    Just as long as we remember that property laws are a form of welfare, designed to liberate you from your personal responsibility for the protection of said property. So, if you agree that my taxes shouldn't go towards protecting your house/car/life, I'll agree that yours shouldn't go towards feeding the hungry. After all, this newfound freedom allows them to feed themselves on delicious Objectivist jerky >:).

    I live in a village where I know everyone and we can defend ourselves without the police. Do you? Well, do ya, punk?

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @12:37PM (#33852572)

    Not it wasn't. There were hundreds (thousands?) of banks which did not do stupid stuff.

    All that would have happened is
    a) the bank executives who did this would have been unemployed (it sounds like some are in one of the responses- but I bet that was mostly scapegoats. The big powers that be either kept their jobs or were "fired" and took multi million dollar parachutes.
    b) the investors who trusted those banks would have lost their money.

    What should have happened is this should have been treated as fraud, which it was for the last 24 months- they have emails from that period showing that by that time the banks knew they were in a ponzi scheme and instead of owning up they tried to milk it for as much money as possible. And all financial gains from fraud should have been confiscated.

    ---
    This is equivalent to "cutting taxes produces wealth". It used to be true, but with cheap labor - all cutting taxes does is reduce the tax base and ship even more jobs over seas.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 10, 2010 @01:07PM (#33852802)

    You are incorrect. The defence budget faces smaller cuts, on the order of 10%, rather than those planned for other departments (25%). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-10924719

    We will now have to work like slaves paying that debt off. The current government is not in the position which Thatcher was. Thatcher had lots of stuff to privatise and raise cash for restructuring and fixing the economy - housing, railways, energy generation and distribution, manufacturing, mining, etc. That is no longer an option.

    In this case, does it make sense to cut back one of the few areas of the UK economy that is globally competitive and creates wealth?

  • by Krahar (1655029) on Sunday October 10, 2010 @02:30PM (#33853404)
    Science is a luxury in the same way that a bridge or a road or a port is a luxury. Sure, it is possible for you to haul your cargo and unload your ships without such luxuries, but fast forward 50 years and suddenly you have no infrastructure and you find yourself a third world country. But yeah, on a horizon of 1 or 2 years, it's a terrible investment, a luxury.

"Look! There! Evil!.. pure and simple, total evil from the Eighth Dimension!" -- Buckaroo Banzai

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