Politics, policy and funding
Science and politics are inextricably intertwined. A significant proportion of scientists rely, directly or indirectly, on funding from the state to carry out their research. This means that changes in the direction of research policy and priorities can have an impact on the lives and careers of individual scientists as well as fields of research. Our interviewees reveal how these changes were seen very differently by those who made the decisions based on their assessment of strategic and financial priorities compared to those who suddenly found years of work would amount to nothing and continue to resent these cancellations in retirement. This is particularly the case for aircraft and space projects which promised technical success but were cancelled for other reasons. Several interviewees recall the challenges and opportunities that aroseas a result of the efforts of the Ministry of Technology in the 1960s to derive commercial benefits from research initiated in the defence sector. Others served as members of government committees or acted as advisors to select committees or ministers when their expertise suddenly became vital to the government. This was certainly the case for Charles Swithinbank, whose role as director of the British Antarctic Survey gained a new significance at the time of the Falklands conflict in 1982.