What do the parties have to say about science?

It's an explosive mixture (Photographer: Catface27 on flickr)

by Lizzie Harrett

In an election dominated by talks of Brexit and its various trappings, science policy has taken a backseat in the debates thrashed out on television, newspapers and social media. While social issues such as immigration and welfare rightfully pique the interests of the electorate, the social and economic repercussions of science policy are also of massive importance. For those with a strong interest or investment in scientific research there are a subset of arguments to consider from each party.

All three main parties promise to increase research and development (R&D) spending – with Labour and the Tories aiming for 3% of GDP and the Liberal Democrats wanting to double it. However, it has been argued this is a sneaky pledge – if the economy crashes it would be easy to achieve 3%. Moreover, the majority of R&D comes from the private sector – of which they have little control over.

Specifically looking at the Tories manifesto, they promise to introduce STEM-focused technical colleges that will offer science training for those who do not want to focus on academia. Higher-level apprenticeships and bespoke employee courses will be available. They vaguely speak of climate change commitments, whilst promising to develop Britain into a shale gas economy through the use of fracking.

The Green’s manifesto unsurprisingly focuses on environmental science. They want to replace “dirty” energy with clean efficient renewables like wind and solar and toughen up laws on environmental protection. They also promise a greater public investment in higher education.

Labour also promise to improve environmental protection laws, introducing a new Clean Air act and introducing a science innovation fund that will work towards sustainability. They also aim to invest in public-health driven research, hoping to to find effective and affordable treatments for diseases in the developing world, including TB and HIV. They also want the UK to continue to partake in EU research grant programmes, meaning that we will likely have to abide with EU freedom of movement rules.

The Liberal Democrats also want to continue to remain involved with EU research grants. When looking at academic research, they pledge d that a fair proportion of all public funding for medical research should be focused on research into mental ill-health. They also favour the further development of open access academic journals. Looking at the environmental side, they promise to invest in cleaner energies and nuclear power whilst opposing fracking.

Plaid’s manifesto of course focuses specifically on Welsh issues, although it is similar to the Greens in focusing on environmental issues. They aim to generate more clean energy using Wales’ natural resources, protect welsh wildlife and biodiversity levels and introduce a new Climate Change Act for Wales.

UKIP also have an entire manifesto section dedicated to environmental protecting, wanting to protect ancient woodlands and support wildlife and farming through grant schemes. They also promise to increase dementia research.

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