The Scientific Alliance has today issued its own ‘Manifesto for Science’ after expressing disappointment that the main party manifestos do not give strong or clear enough commitments to the application of scientific knowledge to policy decisions.
Formed in 2001, the Scientific Alliance is a non-profit membership-based organisation, based in Cambridge. The Alliance brings together both scientists and non-scientists committed to rational discussion and debate on the challenges facing the environment.
Professor Tony Trewavas, FRS, Chairman, Scientific Alliance, said: “There is much common ground about supporting science in party manifestoes but with a few exceptions it is mostly motherhood and apple pie.
“Too often, politicians pay lip service to the use of evidence for policymaking while being guided by political advantage and special-interest lobbying instead. If we want prosperity for all, policies based on hard evidence and objectivity must become the norm.”
“To give greater clarity about how science can benefit Britain we’ve therefore produced our own”.
Amongst a range of policies, the Manifesto for Science calls for a re-balancing of power generation and embracing the opportunities of genetic modification, synthetic biology and life sciences.
Energy policy; Scientific Alliance
An affordable and secure energy supply is vital for a prosperous modern society and this is recognised by all major political parties. The nature of the system that delivers this must not, however, be predetermined by political considerations. Scientists and engineers can deliver national objectives but the public should be fully aware of all costs and environmental impacts.
- Low energy costs are fundamental to a dynamic modern industrial economy and the overall costs of generating and distributing electricity should be a key consideration when developing a strategy.
- A sensible way forward would be to set up a truly independent body of experts, led by an eminent and respected chair, with a wide-ranging brief to review the cost, security and carbon-intensity of the system as well as energy efficiency measures – such as insulation – and their broader implications. This body should report its findings and recommendations on how best to achieve the desired outcome to Parliament rather than Government.
- Given concerns about the operation of the electricity market and well-meaning but misguided proposals for price capping, a similar body should be set up to review all options for governance of the electricity system, also making its recommendations to Parliament.
- Use of indigenous energy supplies should be encouraged wherever economic and technologically justified. We should, however, also be open to the potential of any and all energy sources, including nuclear fission (and, in future, fusion) and storage technologies to contribute to a secure and affordable supply.
Professor Trewavas added: “Energy policy is a mess. Governments have committed themselves to rely increasingly on unreliable renewable energy technologies that increase costs and are not capable of being the basis for a secure power supply.
“Future policy should focus on a set of realistic, achievable top-level targets, with no preconceptions about how we can best achieve them. New energy sources such as Thorium need to be included and an objective cost-benefit analysis established.”
“Irrational opposition to genetic modification has been allowed to drive highly skilled jobs in agricultural research overseas. The next government should take the opportunity to encourage new job creation by taking a science-based approach to regulating both genetic modification and the exciting new tools of synthetic biology.”