Letter:Industry funding is best for science

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The Independent Online
Sir: Tom Wilkie's article ("Science is selling us out", 28 May) rightly drew attention to the relatively poor state of funding for scientific and technological research in the UK.

However, his supporting arguments invoking the model that the best science is disinterested, value-free, and academic ignore the realities of how science is and has been practised: the ascendancy which this theory of science has gained in academic circles may be one of the contributing factors in the relative decline of British science.

The reality of the next few decades is that industry will increasingly use scientific research as a key source of added value and that science will use real world problems as a source of direction and inspiration.

A greater proportion of science will be done in industrial laboratories, and the best scientists will work either simultaneously or sequentially in academic government and industrial laboratories. This is by no means bad news for science. Industry demands excellence in science, no matter the gender, race or creed of the scientist. Performance in the market is a stricter test than peer review, with arguably less bias against novel ideas.

Lastly, all scientists will welcome the fact that it may now be possible to enjoy financial rewards appropriate to the utility, skills and artistry of their work. Scientific researchers produce truth, insights and beauty as great as any composer, painter or novelist. This is appreciated by industry. The real problem is that the rest of society isn't equipped to appreciate it too.