UNDERSTANDING THE MILITARY INFLUENCE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Research Project July 2003-June 2004
Contact:
Chris Langley

Aim To carry out a broad assessment of how scientific research and development is influenced by military interests, and to recommend the changes needed so that this research and development better contributes to peace, social justice and environmental sustainability. The project will produce and disseminate a concise, accessible report on these issues, relevant to peace and disarmament workers, decision-makers, scientists and the public. It is expected that the report will be available in early autumn 2004.

Introduction to the Project

Support of research across the globe has undergone radical change over the past twenty years. Military funding of science and technology continues to be high, both in the UK and in many other countries. Despite a significant fall in this funding after the end of the Cold War, the recent declaration of the so-called 'War on Terror' threatens to reverse this situation. Moreover, with an increasing push for science and technology to be commercially directed, this threatens to undermine government control of where arms technologies may be sold. Questions of commercial confidentiality compromise open science. Meanwhile scientific expertise is increasingly needed to help combat pressing environmental, social and medical problems.

Currently, one third of the UK's public funding for science, technology and engineering research and development - approximately 2.6 billion per annum - comes from the Ministry of Defence. In addition military corporations provide a further 100 million.

Such funds support both pure and applied science and technological development. The defence industries are globally one of the largest and most powerful - BAE Systems in the UK is the second largest defence contractor in the world with annual sales in 130 countries of 12 billion. What is the effect of this military funding on the direction and openness of science and technology in the UK? There has been little research undertaken to address this question. Scientists for Global Responsibility has secured funding for one year to chart the impact of the military influence on the direction and priorities of science and technology.

Some of the questions posed include:

Notes

  1. The project is funded by the Network for Social Change, a charitable trust
  2. Information sources:
    http://www.ost.gov.uk/setstats - Office of Science and Technology (OST) website containing information on the support of science, engineering and technology in the UK
    http://www.ost.gov.uk/research/forwardlook03/ - the latest OST publication entitled "The Forward Look 2003: Government-funded science, engineering and technology"
    http://www.mod.uk/toe and http://www.mod.uk/dtc - these websites of the Ministry of Defence contain details of the Towers of Excellence and Defence Technology Centres programmes
    http://www.sbac.co.uk - this website, of the Society of British Aerospace Companies, gives a view of what motivates one commercial sector to seek collaboration with the universities in the UK.

Source: www.sgr.org.uk (Scientists for Global responsibility) *