02 March 2007

DTI raids science budget, but hacks miss the details

I am surprised that none of the reports that I have seen so far of the raid by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on the science budget refer to the fine print. Can it be that they have done no more than read the press release?

As I reported in my "Labnote" on Science|Business, The vultures descend on the UK's science budget, there are some nice ironies buried in the detailed "explanation" from the Treasury. This reveals where some of the money has gone.

One interesting statistic is that £27 million went from the science research councils for the "Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Directive". By coincidence, this number is just £2 million shy of the amount taken from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. And what does EPSRC do? Among other things it supports research into electronics and electrical equipment.

There's another one. Science is all about measuring things. So laugh as the DTI switches six million smackers "between Science Research Councils and National Measurement System".

We are supposed to be talking to the world about science, so smile ruefully as you watch them switch money between "Science and Society and nonvoted expenditure on the Natural Environment Research Council". Not much money, to be sure, but a lot for a programme that does not need lots of expensive kit.

You need to be a better bean counter, or a journalist with more time to kill, than I am to understand will the switching of "non-voted non-cash to capital".

I'm sure there are other tales like that buried in the data. But to get them you need to put in a bit of effort.

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