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The Spending Review and science: what we know and what we don’t

Since its election in May, the UK Government has been considering how it wants to prioritise spending over the rest of the Parliament. Yesterday afternoon, the Chancellor George Osborne presented these plans to Parliament, giving the first public confirmation of how much Government funding will be set aside for science from 2016/17 to 2020/21. MRC Public Affairs and Policy Manager Jane Bunce looks at what we know and what details are still to come.

George Osborne visits the MRC LMB


The Conservative Government was elected on a pledge to eliminate the budget deficit, and, in further attempts to reduce public spending, deep cuts were expected in yesterday’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015. In the end, the Chancellor confirmed that over the four years £12 billion of savings would be made to Government departments.

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the parent department through which research council funds are channelled, received an overall 17 per cent cut, compared with, for example, 24 per cent to the Treasury budget and 22 per cent to the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s resource budget. And while other parts of BIS, including higher and further education, are seeing heavy cuts, the science budget – the largest pot of public money funding UK science – seems to be largely spared.

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Behind the picture: The ‘smart’ dressing aiming to tackle antimicrobial resistance

Doctors could soon be getting the green light to prescribe antibiotics with a light-up dressing that indicates whether burns are infected or not. If successful, use of the dressing should reduce unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics and therefore antibiotic resistance, and make life a little easier for patients.

The dressing responding to the presence of bacterial toxins

The dressing responding to the presence of bacterial toxins (Image: University of Bath)


It has the air of a futuristic Star Trek-style medical device – a dressing which can tell you if a wound is infected. But rather than being confined to television screens, this bandage could be in hospitals in a few short years.

And as well as its glow-in-the-dark appeal, the dressing has a much more serious aim – to reduce the unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics to burns patients who don’t actually need them.

At the moment it can take up to two days to tell if a patient who is showing symptoms of infection actually has an infected burn. This means that doctors often end up prescribing antibiotics as a precaution – not good at a time when we should be reducing the overall use of antibiotics, particularly in people who do not have an infection. Read more

Why I decided to swap the US for the MRC

When searching for his next career move in 2012, Prof Jeff Pollard wanted a prestigious place to call his new home. After decades in the US, he found what he was looking for in the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh. Here he tells us why he chose the UK to do his science, and why the MRC name was such a draw.

Professor Jeff Pollard

Professor Jeff Pollard

I am often asked why, after 25 years, I would leave a prestigious position in the US to return to the UK.

By the time I left in 2013, I was the Louis Goldstein Swann Chair in Women’s Health at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, the Deputy Director of the Cancer Center and Director of the Center for the Study of Reproductive Biology and Women’s Health. My work had been recognised with several prestigious awards including the highest award of the American Cancer Society, the Medal of Honor for Basic Science Research. So why would I move? Read more