UK scientists protest against expected research cuts

LONDON (Reuters) - Some two thousand scientists and supporters of scientific research protested outside Britain’s Treasury on Saturday against expected government spending cuts they say will cripple innovation and harm the economy.

The government will outline a blueprint for swinging spending cuts on October 20 aimed at reducing a record budget deficit, now at more than 10 percent of national output. Most ministries face cuts of 25 percent or more.

Police and organizers said about 2,000 people gathered outside the Treasury building in Whitehall in central London, some wearing lab coats and clutching placards reading “Do the maths. Science = growth” and “Science saves lives.”

“We want to send a message to the Treasury. Cutting spending on science would actually be shooting ourselves in the foot, because science, technology and innovation fuel the economy,” said Jenny Rohn, spokeswoman for the Science is Vital campaign.

Britain spends some 3.5 billion pounds a year on science, and academics and scientists fear a brain drain as high-fliers move to countries, like the United States, Canada and China, where scientific investment is rising.

Labor unrest is expected as spending cuts, which include reduced benefits and public sector job losses, begin to bite.

Reporting by Mohammed Abbas and Luke MacGregor: Editing by Peter Graff