Sir Paul Nurse Seems Ignorant Of Basic Science

Sure, fighting words aimed at a Nobel Laureate from someone who’s not going to get close to finishing the first chapter of a chemistry book. But then that’s rather the point here, Feynman’s one. That outside their own area of expertise even the finest scientists are just as dumb as the rest of us. So it is with Sir Paul Nurse and his whining about EU science funds. This is economics, a subject Sir Paul is clearly clueless about.

Brexit ‘may bar UK scientists from €100bn EU research fund’
Nobel prize winner warns UK science will suffer unless it can gain access to Horizon Europe

There is the obvious point. The British government isn’t going to be paying into the EU. We’ve long been a net contributor, meaning that what we get back – including in these science funds – is less than what we send. Thus we’ll have more, outside, to spend on such science if we wish to. But that’s just addition, something far too minor an issue to trouble a mind as advanced as Sir Paul’s.

One of Britain’s leading researchers has warned of a “major blow” to national science if ministers cannot secure access to a massive research programme that is being drawn up by the EU. The Horizon Europe programme will fund €100bn in research projects, making it one of the largest science funds in the world. British researchers will be locked out unless the government negotiates an access deal in the coming months. Sir Paul Nurse, the Nobel prize-winning director of the Francis Crick Institute, in London, said the seven-year programme was so important that exclusion would see the UK drop out of the top tier of research nations.

But to economics. What actually is the argument in favour of government subsidy to science? It’s a public good. It’s very difficult indeed to make money out of basic science, therefore too little basic science will be done. Channeling a modest amount of our money to those scientists leads to more science and we’re better off. This really is what the argument is. We should have public subsidy of public goods because that’s what a public good is, something made better – or we get more of it than the market incentives alone would provide – through public subsidy.

OK. But why is it that public goods are so hard to make money from? Because once they exist they’re non-rivalrous and non-excludable. We can’t stop someone using or enjoying them, their use of them doesn’t change the amount available to us to use.

OK. And what happens if the European spend their tax money on science and we don’t? Then we get to use all that science they’ve paid for without having to pay for it. That’s the whole nature of public goods. That’s the thing built into the very definition of public goods. The very argument that leads to public subsidy is the same one that insists it doesn’t matter who pays that subsidy nor where they spend it. That we’re talking about government spending upon science means, by definition, that we don’t care if it’s the Europeans doing the spending on science being done by only Europeans.

But then you know, Sir Paul Nurse doesn’t know anything about science, does he?

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Jihn OlmBloke in North DorsetthammondNick BurtonMatt Ryan Recent comment authors
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Hector Drummond, vile novelist
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Notice he didn’t say the UK will suffer, he said ‘UK science’ will suffer. He didn’t say it’s a ‘major blow to the UK’, he said it’s a major blow to ‘naional science’. Which suggests that at some level he knows the truth, and all he’s really concerned with is the prestige levels of UK scientists, and whether he and his mates have access to lots of research cash.

Dodgy Geezer
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Dodgy Geezer

Nurse and the Royal Society have extensive form when it comes to lying in support of a political dogma.

Here is a short list of their activities over Climate Change:

https://www.thegwpf.org/images/stories/gwpf-reports/montford-royal_society.pdf

swannypol
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swannypol

There is no barrier to a non-EU UK being part of Horizon. Israel is in it for instance, they pay in some cash and participate.
The issue here is that we can’t agree to do that until after we have left the EU. Although we can discuss it in principle with the EU (and probably have) they absolutely will not agree to anything post departure until we have left.
It would constitute a “Deal” you see, thus no longer a “No Deal” Brexit…

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Can someone remind me how many rEU universities are in the world top 30? Ostracising the UK (4 in the top 10) would not be just cutting off your nose to spite your face, but an arm and both legs as well.

Not that this would stop the fonctionnaires from doing so. Why wouldn’t they? It’s not as though they have to worry about re-election.

Matt Ryan
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Matt Ryan

As is ever the case, just look where the money is flowing and then consider whether the person (people) in receipt are corrupted by it.

Nick Burton
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Nick Burton

I heard him interviewed on Radio 4 this morning. From what I could make out, his criticism was that the EU might decide to exclude the UK from co-operating with scientific research. Which only goes to prove that it is just political interference from Brussels, and nothing to do with science. Isn’t that why we are leaving?

thammond
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thammond

Yes, I made exactly the same point a couple o years ago when this scare story went around the first time. If the point of the Fund is to do the best science, why would you exclude scientists who can make a contribution? Either the Eu is just handing out money or cares about science. If the former, good that we are out, if the latter, why would we be excluded?

Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

As Matt Ridley pointed out on Twitter:

This would be an act of spite, given that the following non-EU countries, all take part in Horizon 2020: Norway, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, Israel, Moldova, Switzerland, Faroe Islands, Ukraine, Tunisia, Georgia, Armenia

Jihn Olm
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Jihn Olm

Paul Nurse has made many comprehensive meta-analysis on the finances of scientific research, which predate Brexit by a long shot. How much scientific research have you done into any economic phenomena? It doesn’t seem like you can even do basic research of the person you’ve decided to criticize, what can one expect of the knowledge of economics that you presume to have, but whose explanation thereof only shows a fundamental misunderstanding of science itself; accompanied by vague economic notions, but no clear answers? In both economics and science, you’re outclassed by Sir Nurse. I see some of your acolytes, as… Read more »