Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 28

Submission from Emma-Jane Smith, Medical Student, Royal Free and University College Medical School, University of London


About me

  I am a fifth year medical student at University College London. I hold a BSc (Hons) in Physiology, a degree which incorporated the unique Space and Extreme Environment Medicine course run by one of the UK's leading space medicine experts, Dr Kevin Fong.


  The UK currently discourages its medical students from pursuing an interest in the field of space medicine by the lack of opportunities in this area. As it is a growing field and globally supported, it deserves government funding to better its standing within the European Space Agency and European Community, to benefit the UK's scientific community, and to prevent the loss of talented medical graduates to other countries.


  1.  As a student captured by a fascination with space medicine and hoping to pursue this interest after I graduate, I am continually learning just how difficult it is to break into this field. With the UK supporting few space initiatives and funding for space medicine being next to nothing, there is a paucity of openings for students such as myself, who are forced to look abroad opportunities. Not only is this a loss to the UK in terms of able and dedicated medical graduates—a growing problem in several areas of medicine already, and a considerable financial as well as intellectual drain—but the situation can only add to the UK's poor standing as an ever-diminishing member state of the European Space Agency.

  2.  Space medicine is a field with an ever-increasing skills base and interest from members of the scientific and health communities; this was demonstrated by the burgeoning numbers and scale of the recent UK Space Medicine Conference and its organiser, the UK Space Biomedicine Group, which at conference officially became an Association. The event was supported by US space medicine organisations and strongly supported by professionals from around the globe. Surely the UK should be proud to host the only dedicated space medicine conference in the world—and should be supporting it wholeheartedly—rather than continuing to force out talented individuals through a lack of opportunities in this country?

  3.  Space medicine has much to offer the UK, but it is a new and growing specialty and as such requires, and deserves, proper financial backing and support from the government. The scientific community can only benefit as a result of any such investment from the UK, as can the country's international competitiveness in this growing sector, which at present stands at next to nothing.

  4.  It is high time that the UK government invested more than a token sum in the European Space Agency. A "National Space Centre" containing little to entertain those over the age of 10 is a national disgrace compared to the investment and faith other countries have placed in the exploration of the universe around us.


    —    Increase funding to the European Space Agency and to space medicine initiatives in the UK.

    —    Actively support the UK Space Biomedicine Association.

    —    Create opportunities for UK medical students to undertake an elective in the domain of space medicine in this country, and work towards such opportunities at the European Space Agency.

October 2006

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