Science is something that we really need to invest more in.
I started working on a project called the Scienceogram, and that actually was spawned by a larger project called the Cashogram, in which a friend and I were trying to work out how much of this money that the government spends on all of our behalves…and, you know, we see these massive mind-boggling figures in the news: the government spends about £700 billion a year on various different odds and ends, and we wanted to get a sense of how much money that really was. And the way that we chose to do that was to divide it up into pounds per person per year to sort of give it on a scale which is much more intelligible, certainly to me and probably to everybody else as well. And when you change everything down onto this scale, the numbers that really stand out are science funding. So, for example, cancer affects about 30% of us and yet we spend £4.30 per person per year on publicly-funded cancer research. Now, if there’s a disease that’s got almost a third of a chance of killing me, I want to spend more than a fiver a year trying to find out why, and I think putting the numbers into this kind of perspective, you know, on the scale of a pint or shopping or your weekly rent or something, really illustrated to me at least that science is something that we really need to invest more in.
I think it’s really important that we let everybody know as much as possible, from the general public right up to MPs, because looking at things in this pounds per person per year sort of mentality has completely revised the way I understand government spending, and I think that’s something that not a lot of people really appreciate because even politicians in the media are constantly saying, “the science budget’s £4.6 billion”, but unless you break it down both into pounds per person per year and the actual challenges that science is facing, they’re these monolithic enormous numbers. So if you break it down into individual fields of study and pounds per person per year, I think then you can suddenly start to see how this big picture works, and I think by telling as many people about that as possible it will change the way we think about science funding in this country or even around the world.