Monday, 11 October 2010

BANG for your Buck

 Some of my previous articles have argued why the Coalition Government should not cut science funding. Today I'm going to continue this theme, with a focus on value for money.

I am a postgraduate student, funded by a government grant through the EPSRC, and I am among the least expensive government employees in the country. A standard EPSRC stipend provides £13,590 per annum, though EngD students and London weightings can result in the actual amount being more.

£13k is nothing.

The mean average graduate salary in the UK in 2008 was £24,048, and the median salary £23,500, in 2009 the median had risen to £25,000. Even counting tax of 20% (students do not pay tax) stipends pay well below this level.

Then there is the consideration that PhD students are expected to have a 2:1 or first class honours degree, and the fact that not all students meet these requirements. This further tips the salary scales against research students.

So the government is paying well below the market rate for students who carry out scientific research with a large economic payback [PDFs].

How Big a Bang do you want? The Eta Carinae Supernova. By Nathan Smith (University of California, Berkeley), and NASA (File:Eta Carinae.jpg and File:Etacarinae-001.jpg) [public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.

And it doesn't only reside with the students.

Postdoctoral researchers do not earn a fortune*. And could earn more working in industry as this article explains (USA figures);
A post-doctoral candidate searching for a research fellowship can expect to make around $44,558 per year... However, if this post-doc were to look for a job at a private company, [they] could expect to earn an average of $94,528.
Cuts to science funding will hit a highly footloose group, who will go elsewhere. To quote Dr Jenny Rohn (a UCL researcher from the USA) we will be "shooting ourselves in the foot".

I would like to thank all the speakers at the Science is Vital Rally on Saturday for giving me food for thought. And Dr Evan Harris for his rousing renditions. And Rob for reminding me to post.

*(I don't trust this source, let me know if you find better)

No comments:

Post a Comment