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Soldiers in the Laboratory

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A report - Soldiers in the Laboratory, has just been published by Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR). It argues that by concentrating on technological solutions, military science narrows thinking on security issues. Instead of addressing the social problems at the root of terrorism or civil conflict, researchers have instead focused on biochemical warfare sensors, advanced field equipment for infantrymen or missile technologies that could fuel another arms race. British defence chiefs spend only 6% of their research budget on preventing conflict.

According to the report almost a third of all public spending on research is funded by the Ministry of Defence - far more than is spent on research by the National Health Service. It adds: "British universities are caught up in a new wave of military partnerships, and young researchers have switched to high-technology weapons-based research in a dangerous atmosphere of commercialisation and secrecy."

Steven Rose, a brain and behaviour scientist at the Open University said: "Ever since 1945, and under Tory and Labour governments, Britain has spent disproportionately more of its research and development budget on military technology than any other country ... "

Global military spending in 2003 stood at $956bn, the report says, of which the US spent 40%.

Philip Webber, chairman of Scientists for Global Responsibility, said: "The report reveals a new military-industrial complex of the 21st century - military-led funding of exotic technologies and hi-tech weaponry rather than technology to address pressing social needs."

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