William Waldegrave's science White Paper has initiated a further review of government research establishments, concentrating on privatisation and rationalisation, with the aim of reducing government expenditure rather than increasing the effectiveness of British science.
Ministers seem to have little understanding of the worth of scientific research. They do not appear to appreciate that the accumulated knowledge of the workforce, properly utilised, is of far greater benefit to the nation than the immediate realisation of assets such as buildings and land.
Government research laboratories were set up to conduct research for the public good which would not otherwise be carried out by industry or universities. This research - for example, in measurement, safety and environmental standards - is more important than ever, due to the increasingly technical complexity of life and the increasing need for global harmonisation. Until the Government reverses its policy of cutting research funding, and gives up its dogma of privatising its laboratories, the science community will see Mr Waldegrave's enthusiasm for initiatives such as National Science Week as empty rhetoric.
Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists
National Physical Laboratory