Welcome To The Science Party

Today, 20 April, sees the launch of The Science Party, a new political party led by bestselling author and New Scientist consultant Dr Michael Brooks. Brooks is standing for the party in the forthcoming British general election in the East Midlands constituency of Bosworth.

Brooks launched The Science Party, whose slogan is “Because Science Matters”, at a Skeptics event in Leicester on Tuesday evening.

“Science is not just an indulgence for the curious, but is vital to British life, culture and economic well-being,” Brooks says. “Science-based healthcare has made all of our lives immeasurably better. It contributes more to Britain’s GDP than the insurance, banking and financial services sector combined. It also seeds future economic stability.”

This could have been a quote from Francis Bacon who, some 400 years ago, kick started the scientific and industrial revolution in Britain. Bacon's Novum Organum, published in 1620, was not just a treatise on the philosophy of science but also a political statement as well as a prospectus to garner funding to foster scientific research and development in England

The British electoral system makes it very difficult for small parties to gain any sort of representation; any form of proportional representation, such as in many countries in Europe, is much better. However, will be very interesting to see how much support the Science Party can muster. If we add all the science-related and technical professions such as IT and finance the potential number of voters is, I'd guess, far higher than many might think.

Here is a quote from the Science Party manifesto.

We now need to commit to an increase in investment in science now, or risk devastating British science and the economy in years to come through ill-advised spending cuts. We need to raise Government spending on research as a proportion of national wealth to 2.5 per cent of GDP. We need a Chief Scientific Adviser in the Treasury to bring the thinking of that department into the 21st century.

We need to ensure that there is a steady supply of skilled scientists, engineers and mathematicians, the basis of a knowledge economy. That means school pupils need to be able to study biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics, taught by specialist teachers with a relevant degree.

Subjects such as chemistry and physics demand expensive laboratories in universities and these have to be adequately funded by the funding councils so that universities are not tempted to close science and engineering departments so they can pack more students into relatively cheap – and relatively worthless – degree courses.

British business invests too little in research. In 2007 British companies spent 1.14% of GDP on R&D, while in the US the figure was 1.9% and in Germany 1.8%. We should expand the R&D tax credit and adopt other incentives to grow and attract and secure high tech businesses.

Science and engineering are crucial for government – they are central to issues ranging from healthcare to global warming to energy generation. We need to enshrine a strong set of principles within the ministerial code that protect scientific advisers, academic freedom and independence. Otherwise the integrity of scientific advice cannot be guaranteed if ministers are able to summarily dismiss their independent scientific advisers.

To ensure that there is proper oversight of policies affecting and affected by science and engineering, the Minister for Science and Innovation would have to be in the Cabinet, not a second rate minister.
An insight into what happens to scientists who step into politically sensitive positions can be gleaned from the novel The New Men by C. P. Snow.

As it stands, the manifesto is currently a single-issue document and one hopes that Brooks has thought through all the other issues that voters are concerned with; it's the economy, stupid!

Will Little Britain turn into the New Atlantis?

Good luck to Brooks!