When the Labour Party won last May's general election, it pledged to stick to the tough spending plans of its Tory predecessor--including a flat budget for science spending. Last week, the British government showed that it is true to its word. Funding for the $2.1 billion science budget will rise only $13 million for 1998, which is a slight decrease of $48 million if one takes into account inflation.
Engineering and physical sciences fares the worst, with a cut of $5.4 million, while natural environment research fares best, with a $10 million boost to its $265 million budget.
The announcement disappointed researchers. "This is not what we expect from a government whose prime minister has committed to reinvigorating the science base," says physicist John Mulvey, spokesperson for the lobbying group Save British Science. Future spending will be determined by the results of a major review of spending across all departments, due to be completed by the summer. "The planned reduction in the science budgets must be ended," he adds.
University researchers did have some good news. The results of the second annual round of a scheme to fund equipment through partnerships between industry and government reveal $72 million from the private sector, matched by $55 million from the government. Among the biggest winners was Cambridge University physicist Stephen Hawking, with $2 million for his studies on the origin of the universe. Mulvey welcomes the money but says there was still "great concern as to how to deal with the backlog in equipment for universities."