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Economy Economy

Increase the number of scientists working in the UK

Last updated: 09:43pm 3 December 2019

We will increase the number of scientists working in the UK and enable leading scientists from around the world to work here.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.19

Our verdict

Why a policy on scientists? Well, according to the United Nations:

“Science is the greatest collective endeavour. It contributes to ensuring a longer and healthier life, monitors our health, provides medicine…helps us to provide water…provides energy and makes life more fun… Last but not least, it nourishes our spirit.”

More scientists can be seen as a net gain for society, so this policy promises to increase the number of scientists working in the UK.

Defining who is and isn’t a scientist and tracking the numbers is difficult, but Eurostat (the EU statistics agency) do keep track of the number of scientists and engineers working in EU countries, based on international standard definitions. By that measure, the number of scientists aged 25-64 working in the UK did increase between 2017 and 2018 – although this number increased in almost every year since 2011, so it is not clear this can be attributed to government initiatives since 2017.

In June 2018, the government announced £1.3 of investment in businesses and universities to “develop the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and scientific leaders”.

In August 2019, the Prime Minister asked the Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to develop new visa scheme to attract the best scientific talent to the UK, though no concrete proposals have yet been put forward. The government also held a consultation on encouraging innovation in the utilities sector, though it has not yet provided its response.

It is difficult to say progress in this area is a result of government policy. However, through increased investment, the government has made efforts to attract scientists and ‘grow’ scientists through our education system, and there has been an increase in the number of scientists working in the UK.  We think there’s enough evidence to say this policy is ‘done’.

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