News blog

Cuts threatened to UK parliament science advice

When British politicians want advice on science policy issues, they – or their staff – often turn to the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), an in-house briefings unit that provides analysis on everything from consumer genetic testing to low-carbon technologies.

But POST now finds itself threatened with cuts of up to a quarter of its £570,000 (US$913,000) budget, under proposed cost-saving measures to the House of Commons library services. “If the cuts suggested were made wholly on such a small scientific body like POST, it could spell the end of science in Parliament as we know it.  Nobody wants to see this happen as it would be a self-defeating action,” Adam Afriyie, POST’s chair and a Conservative MP, told Nature.

Today, two former British science ministers, a Nobel laureate and a host of UK learned societies are arguing that the service’s budget should be protected. “The House of Commons has a deficit of Members with a scientific or engineering background,” they write in a letter to the House of Commons Commission (which decides on budgeting), co-ordinated by the Campaign for Science and Engineering, a London-based science lobby group: “We are of the view that the role of POST has never been more important.”

On its surface, the published proposals (pdf, page 20) seem innocent enough: the proposed saving of £98,000 is a mere 1.4% of the House of Commons library research budget. But it’s feared the entire amount will be loaded onto POST, lopping 17% off a budget which has already recently been voluntarily downsized by 7% with salary cuts. The issue is up for debate in the House of Commons on Thursday, and Afriyie is hoping to keep any further cuts down to the 1.4% level.


  1. Report this comment

    Umberto Cannella said:

    Putting forth a petition is very welcome, in that it asks the public to express its support; however in order for the public to be appreciative of science it has to be made aware first and this can only be achieved if the public is engaged in a two-way conversation with the scientific community. My recipe for tackling this problem at its roots is in a paper I titled “Who cares about physics today? A marketing strategy for the survival of fundamental science and the benefit of society”: it is available at, I hope you will find it interesting.
    For a more condensed treatment of how to prevent budget cuts to affect science, in Europe as well as in the US, you may want to take a look at this entry on my blog

    Let us fight together!

    Umberto Cannella, PhD
    Postdoctoral Research Assistant
    Maryland Center for Fundamental Physics
    Rm. 4109, J. S. Toll Physics Bldg
    University of Maryland
    College Park, Maryland 20742

Comments are closed.