For scientists, Europe matters

The campaign for the European Parliamentary Elections on Thursday has been shockingly short of debate about substantive issues, at least in the UK. You will find little or no analysis in the UK media of a key EU function: supporting science, research and innovation.

Yet the main political parties do have policies on these issues, as the London-based Campaign for Science and Engineering points out. CaSE asked the UK parties what the EU should be doing about science and innovation; the responses can be found on the campaign’s website.

Encouragingly, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats all want the EU to do more for research.  Although the Conservatives favour a cap on the overall EU budget, they support the transfer of funding to science and technology – and strongly support growth of the new European Research Council. The Scottish Nationalist Party and Plaid Cymru, its Welsh counterpart, are even more enthusiastic.

The Green party focuses particularly on promoting a “revolution in skills to build the new green economy,” though it will not win many friends among mainstream scientists through its call for “an immediate halt to xenotransplantation, genetic manipulation and cloning of animals, and an immediate ban on the harmful use of animals (including but not only primates) in research, testing and education.”

Of course the UK Independence Party believes the EU has no part to play in research. “Such matters should be dealt with by our national parliament, which could fund research far more efficiently and effectively than the European Union,” UKIP says.

In a valiant attempt to engage scientists’ interest in the elections, Nick Dusic, CaSE director, says: “I hope that the information provided by the parties on their EU science and engineering policies informs your vote on 4th June.” That may be a vain hope but it is good to see someone trying to involve scientists in the European democratic process.

The world of research

The science blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

Clive Cookson, the FT's science editor, picks out the research that everyone should know about, in fields from astronomy to zoology. He also discusses key policy issues, from R&D funding to science education. He'll cover the weird and wonderful, as well as the serious side of science.