Today, Nick Clegg gave a solid speech on science at the Royal Society where he outlined a number of key commitments. Gordon Brown gave a speech on science at the University of Oxford back in February 2009. Although he has been invited to give one, David Cameron has yet to make a major speech on science.
The closest he has come some so far is a speech on innovation and public policy to NESTA back in April 2008. The speech did not touch on many of the science policy issues that CaSE and others are concerned about.
Cameron has mentioned science in speeches. During his conference speech he said the Conservative plan to get Britain working “is a plan to boost science”.
He has also looked at detailed science policy issues in debates about broader issues. For example, he look at the role of research councils when discussing reforming quangos:
“Their [Research Councils] purpose is to allocate research grants across a full range of disciplines, from the medical, biological and environmental sciences to the arts and humanities so that Britain becomes a centre for academic excellence. They get the best academics to judge each application on its own merits and award funding accordingly. It would be wrong to leave this to the political system, subject as it is to lobbying and short-term pressures.”
During a speech on the economy he made an impassioned plea to re-balance the economy with more science:
“We need to move away from an economy that relies too heavily on the narrow shoulders of finance and housing to drive growth to one that includes more science, more hi-tech services, more green technologies, more engineering and more high-value manufacturing and one that draws upon a much wider range of industries, markets, people, towns and cities.”
Cameron has something to say on science and there are lots of people out there who want to hear it before the election. It is time for him to step up and give a speech like his fellow party leaders have done.