When Science met Big Society

This is an pretty old post from my blog, which has been preserved in case its content is of any interest. You might want to go back to the homepage to see some more recent stuff.

Yesterday’s announcement that the Arts and Humanities Research Council will, on pain of losing funding, devote a “significant” amount of time to studying the notion of “Big Society” is frankly shocking. If it is indeed true, it smacks of incredible egotism on the part of the government.

The government’s money is the people’s money – if we’re not going to leave the job of deciding what to research to the actual researchers, why should the government’s whims be involved? If there were a referendum on it now, what proportion of the tax-paying public would label the Big Society as a steaming pile of shite that we shouldn’t be throwing any more money at?

Conversely, how many of the government’s other sweeping changes – the programme of cuts (Warning: least impartial summary ever) that we are now subject to, for example – have been the subject of such hopefully-independent research?

A future UKIP government promises to ban global warming research, and apart from the climate change deniers, I’m confident the public would not support that particular aspect of governmental meddling in research. So why are we putting up with this?

(And on a related note, does anyone else think it’s a little odd to commission research on a policy after committing to it?)

tl,dr: Hands off mah science, government.

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