Cancer Research UK calls for maintenance of science budget 'ring-fence'

In collaboration with Adfero

Failure to protect levels of science spending could result in years of valuable research being wasted, says Cancer Research UK.

This Wednesday (October 20th) will see chancellor George Osborne reveal his plans to tackle the budget deficit, with government spending set to be slashed by billions of pounds.

Against this backdrop, Aisling Burnand, Cancer Research UK's executive director of policy and public affairs, has warned that significant cuts to the science budget could have a lasting impact on the sector.

"Our progress in beating cancer is the perfect example of how 'Big Society' can work in practice. This wouldn't have been possible without our supporters. And it's important to remember that discoveries made through government-funded science underpin our success," she commented.

"It can take more than a decade for most research projects to reach a stage where they start benefiting patients. Without sustained investment, years of valuable research could be wasted, even if science funding is restored further down the line. This is why it's so important that we strategically invest in science for the future and maintain the science budget ring-fence."

Burnand also noted that moves to limit migration from non-EU countries could hamper scientific advancement as it will restrict the talent pool.

"To conduct the best science we need the best researchers. We're deeply concerned that the non-EU immigration cap will prevent Cancer Research UK from being able to recruit the best scientists from overseas. There's currently a shortage of UK scientists in key areas, such as imaging, small molecule drug discovery and epidemiology. In our five-year research strategy we laid out plans to try and address this by recruiting from overseas, which can also help get the most out of our home-grown scientists. But a strict cap on numbers such as this could leave us with no other way of meeting this important need."

Burnand was speaking after The Times published a letter in which the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) rejected the notion that charities could help to limit the impact of reduced government support.

While more than £1 billion of medical and health research was funded by AMRC members last year, signatories said charities should not be seen by ministers as a "substitute for government expenditure".

Opportunity to improve public health will only come about when the public, charitable and industry sectors work together, the AMRC continued.

As such, the body concluded that, should the government fail to sustain levels of science funding, the UK could lose its position as an international leader in the field.