Dash for cash is stopping science in its tracks, claims Nobel winner

 

Scientific breakthroughs are becoming more difficult in Britain because of the pressure on scientists to demonstrate that their research has practical benefits before it is funded, Kostya Novoselov told The Independent.

The Nobel prize-winner, who was feted by Chancellor George Osborne for his pioneering work on graphene, said scientists increasingly have to show that their research has commercial potential.

He added that the “blue skies” nature of scientific research is critical to industrial innovation but is being stifled by academic funding bodies looking for short-term spin-offs. “We are gradually losing the blue-skies element [of scientific research]. It is very important because we lose this opportunity for breakthroughs,” he said. “You start to see more and more forms that ask you about the benefit to society from your research, and so on. It’s very hard to determine the benefit to society because science deals with something that is unknown.

“Another problem is that scientists begin to feel ashamed of negative results, which wasn’t the case a few years ago. Negative results are often as important as the positive results. The current system doesn’t tolerate failure.

“The situation is getting worse. The pot of money allocated to science is not increasing fast enough, or is even under the threat of being shrunk. But you are also seeing more and more strings attached to this money, which they shouldn’t be.”

Alongside his compatriot and colleague Professor Andre Geim, Professor Novoselov has been hailed by the Chancellor as the sort of scientist who should be encouraged to work in Britain. The Government has approved the funding of a new £61m National Graphene Institute in Manchester that is aimed at exploiting the commercial potential of their pioneering work.

Professor Novoselov, who is closely involved with the new institute, had insisted the money for it should not be diverted from Government funds for basic research. “Scientists should be given freedom of their research, and once the new breakthroughs are identified, they should be given additional funding to advance it into technology,” he said.

“Graphene is a good example, because the money given to the graphene institute is not part of the scientific budget. It’s coming from different sources” he said.

However, both Geim and Novoselov have been critical of the amount of money that the Government allocates to science. Professor Geim was one of the 53 signatories of a letter to the Daily Telegraph recently calling on the Government to boost the £4.6bn science budget rather than oversee a “policy of managed decline”.

Professor Novoselov said that Britain’s major competitors in south-east Asia, for instance, are spending about 3 per cent of GDP on science while the private and public sector together in Britain spend about 1.7 per cent on scientific research.

Even though the Government has “ring-fenced” the science budget, Professor Novoselov said a major boost to funding is essential if Britain is to stay a scientific powerhouse.

“It’s like a condemned man who is going to be shot and has been given another day to live – is that a good deal? Of course it’s a good deal with the background that everything else is being shrunk, but it is much better if this person gets pardoned completely,” he said. “If not in science, where do you see the economic growth of this country coming from?”

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - Saffron ...

Primary Supply Teacher - Northants

£90 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Primary School Supply Teache...

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Maths Teacher - Saffro...

Chemistry Teacher - Top School in Malaysia - January Start

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain