Scientists took to the streets of London in their thousands yesterday in a protest over the government's proposed spending cuts which could see funding slashed by as much as a quarter.
The rally outside the Treasury was organised by the newly formed pressure group Science is Vital, which numbers well-known scientists such as Dr Tanya Byron and Sir Patrick Moore among its supporters.
The group argues that funding in areas such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics should be ring fenced because they can help stimulate the economy at precisely the time it needs a boost.
A statement on the Science is Vital web site noted that UK scientists are world leaders in many disciplines, producing over 10 per cent of global scientific output with only one per cent of the global population, despite the country spending less on science per capita than most of its competitors.
"Our world-class research universities and institutes attract excellence and investment from around the world, and have made us a global hub for science," it said.
"Nations such as the US, China, Germany and France have all recognised the importance of investing in science, especially in austere times. It could be catastrophic for the UK to do the exact opposite."
The Treasury has warned all government departments to be prepared for cuts of up to a quarter when the spending review is announced on 20 October.
It is believed that the UK spends around £4bn a year on science, and many fear that large-scale cuts could precipitate a brain drain from Britain.
"We believe there's very good evidence that if you cut science funding you're actually shooting yourself in the foot, because if you don't fund science you're not fuelling the economy," said Science is Vital founder Jenny Rohn.
"You might get to claw back some short-term benefits, but in the long term the economy will be harmed."
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