September 21, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Will government-funded researchers lose their voices this May? A new regulation may threaten UK scientists' right to campaign, advise, and speak out about science.

A new anti-lobbying regulation announced over the weekend could prevent scientists from speaking out against the government, starting as early as May this year.

Downing street signThe new legislation states that ‘Organisations receiving government grants will be banned from using these taxpayer funds to lobby government and Parliament’. Therefore, any research institute which is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) or research councils such as the Medical Research Council (MRC), will not be able to undertake any activities that might influence policy changes.

This means that institutions, such as the MRC funded Clinical Science Centre at Imperial, will not be able to publically voice differing opinions to any new regulations imposed by government or Parliament. This would have an effect on every area of science, from climate change policy to medicine and healthcare, by preventing the experts in these areas from speaking out if they find that current government policies are causing more harm than good.

Currently, it is thought that Research Councils UK, the umbrella organisation for the several research councils, are believed to be undergoing talks to try and change this draft regulation behind closed doors to ensure that research institutions are exempt.

You can find out more about the policy change here.
Sarah Cowen-Rivers is studying for an MSc in Science Communication

Image: Stuart Hall