Many working scientists see little future in the sector

More than four in 10 working scientists are either unsure of whether they will be able to stay in that field or certain they will leave it, a study has revealed.


The State of Science 2006 survey, conducted by professionals’ trade union Prospect, reveals a huge level of anxiety about scientists’ personal futures in both the public and private sectors.


A total of 952 members from both sectors responded to the union’s survey. Overall, just 58% of respondents said they expected to stay in science, with a slightly higher level of confidence in the private sector (62%) than the public sector (57%).


The reason why 42% are fearful for the future has nothing to do with the work itself. Many scientists expect to be forced out through redundancy or early retirement, while a desire for better pay and conditions is the most common reason cited for leaving.


A dramatic decline in promotion opportunities was also reported by more than half of all respondents, compared with just 7% who said they have increased.


More than two in three of all respondents – and 63% of those in the private sector – report that their team’s work has been affected by funding cuts over the past five years, resulting in large numbers of scientists having to chase funding for science, rather than actually doing science.


Paul Noon, Prospect general secretary, said: “Prospect’s survey debunks the political rhetoric that science has never had it so good. Despite the government’s £10bn investment in commercial science, behind the headlines, science for the national good is fast disappearing, along with the expertise that drives it.


“Prospect is not opposed to change and this is not an anti-science government – far from it. But the voices of those who are best qualified to comment should give us all cause for concern.”

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