Has there ever been a time when scientists have been held in higher regard? Compared to the political class, scientists have appeared lucid, sensible and our best hope of escaping the coronavirus situation.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the lead immunologist on the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, is just one scientist who’s become a hugely revered voice in America and beyond, despite regurgitated attacks from Donald Trump, who told campaign staff in October that people are exhausted listening to Anthony Fauci and all those fools.
In the end, Anthony Fauci will continue to serve in the White House long after Donald Trump has headed back to Mar a Lago for good.
Scientists stock has soared further as well with news of three potentially transformative vaccine breakthroughs, with the first jabs being issued this week, and the response in newspapers, on social media and from the general public has been ecstatic and while politicians have been meddling, obfuscating and bickering among themselves, scientists have potentially saved the day.
Even though distracted by the internecine squabbling of frontline politics, Boris Johnson is doing his best to clutch onto the coattails of the science community and has endeavoured to use it to peddle his narrative that post-COVID and post-Brexit, Britain will lead to a scientific renaissance driven by our world-class research and development community, and we can expect more of this now that the Oxford vaccine has also come up with the goods.
Which would all be well and good if our education system was in any way geared up to provide the science world with the conveyor belt of graduates it’s going to require. Or indeed, if it was able to take advantage of the rise in interest in the scientific fields that will certainly follow these remarkable breakthroughs.
Instead, it seems that our education system is still failing the vast preponderance of children when it comes to teaching science, and we still need to go some way to reverse the fact in the last 25 years.
Forty-four per cent of UK born Nobel prize-winning scientists were educated at independent schools, which only educated 7 per cent of the UK population, and other research has revealed that only 15 per cent of scientists came from working-class families, which make up 35 per cent of the general population.
And for too long, teaching has struggled to entice enough teachers with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) qualifications into the classroom and year after year the Government fails to hit its recruitment targets for many of those subjects.
Welcome to a brave new world and indeed scientists will become our new icons – goodbye, entertainment, celebrities and it appears that there’s not enough rewards or stimuli in the scientific community in the United Kingdom for those who qualify themselves to become scientists to even stay in the United Kingdom and there are much better prospects and an even better standard of living for them abroad.
And a large brain drain of homegrown talent from the United Kingdom is unavoidable and the capacity to lure top academic and research people and accompanying funding from overseas will plunge in the restricted and overtly xenophobic environment the United Kingdom now symbolises.