Friday, November 10, 2006

Ministry of experiments

Today Lord Sainsbury announced he would be quitting his position as the government Science Minister. His reason for leaving has yet to be revealed although there are murmurings of possible links to the whole cash for honours/peerages scandal, although he received his peerage before his own large donations to the labour party (some of which he might not quite have disclosed fully) were made. Over his time in this position he has overseen a large rise in the government spending on science and as far as I can tell has actually taken a fairly large interest in his job (apparently it's never been a ministerial brief that anyone's really wanted before). There also appears to have been a fair amount of respect for him among the scientific community (according to this article at least). He's definitely been the most prominent and visible Science minister I can remember, in fact I have no idea who any of the previous science ministers have been. A lot of his prominence has been down to his donations to the Labour party, his closeness to Tony Blair, and his Sainsburys supermarkets based fortune, but I have actually also seen him championing science on a fair few occasions. I don't really know if he's had much direct impact on funding within Physics and Astronomy, but I assume some of the extra money that's been put into sciences (from £1.4 billion in 1998 to £3.4 billion next year) must have come our way. The new appointment for the post is going to be Malcolm Wicks MP, who has been holding the position of Minister for Energy. I don't know if he has any science background, but from his biography he seems to have spent a lot of time working on issues for the aged and for carers. My main hope is that he is actually interested in taking up his new post, rather than dismissing it, and will be active in fighting the corner of science in general.