Science Is Vital: a Letter to my MP

Further to my blog-post “Vince Cable: Respectfully, You’re Wrong.” wherein I made my case for science and had a bit of a rant I’ve written to Caroline Nokes; my local MP, through the website http://www.writetothem.com which makes the whole process much faster, simpler and easier than I thought possible. Anywho I realise that some of you who read this will disagree, but as a science student looking to go into a research career, I see it as my duty to fight as though my back is against the wall for my future career.

I am posting my letter below, and will post a response – should I receive one – in the interest of open and responsible Government.

The Letter:

Dear Caroline Nokes,

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, I realise you are a
very busy person and have far more pressing matters to attend to than
reading constituent letters.

I am writing to request that you add your name to the Early Day Motion,
EDM 767 SCIENCE IS VITAL CAMPAIGN which has been tabled by your
colleague Julian Huppert. See:

http://edmi.parliament.uk/edmi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=41727&SESSION=905

As a student at the University of Southampton wishing to undertake a
PhD upon my graduation next year I have a vested interest in the
maintenance of or increase in science funding. I also feel strongly
that the apparent view of both the Treasury and the Department for
Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) of science funding as an
“expense” rather than an “investment” is both shortsighted and will put
this country on the back foot when it comes to future – more prosperous
– times.

Like any informed citizen of these isles I am as shocked and
disappointed as everyone else in Britain at the enormous structural
deficit we find ourselves in as a nation but I implore you to review
the proposed cuts to the Science investment budget.

The UK has one of the smallest percentage investment budgets of all of
the G10 countries and yet we account for;

“eight per cent of scientific journal articles, and 14 per cent of
high-impact citations (a measure of how influential the research
is)…the UK spends 0.55 per cent of GDP on research and development,
compared to Germany’s 0.71 per cent, France’s 0.81 per cent and the
USA’s 0.77 per cent.”

Daily Telegraph, 21 Sep, 2010.

For a nation that has has such an illustrious history and ongoing
reputation in all of the sciences it would be very shortsighted to
jeopardise its proper and respected place amongst the scientific elite.

I would also like to point to the evidence that demonstrates a very
strong correlation between increases in science funding and an increase
in GDP and that the inverse is also true. May I draw your attention to
the following section of the parliamentary report of the Science and
Technology Committee from earlier this year as an illustration of this
point;

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/335/33505.htm

Thank you once again for taking the time to read this letter and I look
forward to meeting you at a future surgery and at campaigning events
for the conservative and unionist party.

Yours sincerely,

Benjamin David Brooks

I hope to receive a response in the next couple of days, be assured that as soon as I do I shall post it here also. I should also acknowledge James Thomas from the Science Is Vital Facebook Group for providing the basic letter from which I adapted this one.

I received a response from Caroline Nokes within two hours and this alone was very impressive as I’ve had a mixed experience of contacting my elected representatives in the past, I’ve posted Caroline’s response below with the understanding that should she wish for me to remove it I will do at her request.

Caroline Nokes’ Response

Dear Benjamin

Thank you for your email of today’s date – actually I am not sure that I do have anything more important to do than respond to constituents’ concerns and issues which they raise with me!

I attended a fascinating event yesterday, the launch of the new LOFAR telescope which is located in the Romsey and Southampton North constituency.  It is the only one in the UK, and a really important project for the whole of Europe.  It would not be possible without the backing and investment of 50 universities (I think – although that number may be wrong) and the support of the scientific community, many of whom were present yesterday.  Please be assured they used that opportunity to lobby me very hard.

I have been generally impressed with the arguments put forward that whilst investment in science may not reap rewards this year, or even next, neglecting the sector will be disastrous for the UK Plc long term.  We have to recognise that this is not a manufacturing country which can compete with India or China, but we have the potential to reinforce our position as one of the strongest knowledge based economies.

With regard to the EDM, to be frank I am far from convinced as to their benefit, and I have heard colleagues refer to them as “parliamentary graffiti”.  But please do not consider my lack of signature as in any way expressing a lack of support for the issues raised.

Best wishes

Caroline

Caroline Nokes MP

I was heartened by this response and am somewhat pleased that the Science Is Vital campaign may have at least one more ally in parliament, but decided to (politely) push the EDM issue, my reply is posted below.

My Reply

Dear Mrs. Nokes,

Thank you for your rapid and candid response, I have had a mixed experience of correspondence with MP’s in the past and am heartened by your reply. I hope you will not mind my posting it on my blog at http://www.benjamindbrooks.wordpress.com but will take it down if you so wish.

I am as you may understand happy to read of your support for the broader scientific community in the UK and of their need for support and investment through these tough economic times. Whilst I am in no place as a student to comment on the UK manufacturing base I am of a similar, if less informed opinion on that issue.

As to the Early Day Motion, I understand and share your scepticism of them as a means of furthering the democratic process. I would however impress upon you to add your signature to it if for no other reasons than to help assuage the scientific community who are feeling very isolated at the present time; and to raise the issue’s profile in the parliamentary chamber.

Once again thank you for your rapid and candid response and I hope you are enjoying your first term in office.

Yours Sincerely

Benjamin David Brooks

I’ve since had a response to this email, the upshot being that I now have an assurance that she will look again at the Early Day Motion. I must say this has restored my faith in elected representatives to some extent.

Ben Brooks

Short-Link to this Post: http://wp.me/pFUij-82

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2 thoughts on “Science Is Vital: a Letter to my MP

  1. Ray Schlepphorst

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    Reply

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