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Reaching for the stars

We should fund science not for a direct economic return—but to attract creative people to Britain

By Stephen Eales   January 2008

It seems a bit graceless to complain about government funding of science, because since 1997 Labour has been generous to scientists, including astronomers like myself, whose research has no obvious economic benefit. This government seems to realise the importance of scientific research, but a few of its recent decisions suggest it is still uneasy about supporting “blue-skies” research.

A single line in Gordon Brown’s 2006 budget threw British astronomers into a collective tizzy. Brown announced the government’s intention to merge the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), responsible for funding research in astronomy and particle physics, with the Council…

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