Dancing with the budget
Dancing is good for you. But while this fact may seem fairly obvious for most of us, it seems that's not sufficient to satisfy researchers at the University of Brunel in the UK. Just days ahead of Wednesday's UK budget announcement by chancellor George Osborne, the university issued a press release calling on people to sign up to a two-hour ‘unique movement' workshop this weekend at Brunel's Antonin Artaud Theatre. According to the release, the workshop will be first ‘large-scale experiment' of an 18 month £250,000 taxpayer [the Economic and Social Research Council] funded study of the ‘benefits of dance' – also involving academics at University College London and Cambridge University, and performance artist Matthias Sperling.
‘This is an extremely unique project, which we hope will give us new insights into why people enjoy the performance arts and which may lead to new treatments for psychological issues such as obsessive compulsive disorder and autism,' says Brunel psychology lecturer Guido Orgs in a press statement.
Granted, a quarter of a million pounds may seem a trifling amount of money when faced with the UK's projected borrowing for 2015 of £90.2bn, or at a time when national debt levels for 2014/15 stand at 80.4%. But do we really need to spend £250, 000 of taxpayers' money on a project to study the benefits of something that many of us do already for enjoyment? (Unless, that is, you happen to be really bad at it.)
The problem is, of course, that the Brunel dance experiment is far from the only government funded project that might raise a sceptical eyebrow. We are bombarded daily with examples in the national press. According to Scienceogram UK website, meanwhile, the government spend on R&D is around £160 per person/year, which is less than 1.5% of total spending, and far smaller than the amount allocated for either benefits and healthcare.
Surely, there is some sense in the old adage about looking after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves? Or, to quote supermarket giant Tesco, ‘every little helps'. The handing out of money for projects to study the apparently obvious doesn't just risk becoming a subject of public derision, but is a national scandal.
As for myself, I am about to check out the Brunel workshop – apparently participants will be paid and anyone with a basic level of fitness can take part! Judging from the picture of George Osborne strutting his stuff on the front cover of The Sun newspaper, it looks like the chancellor could do with a few lessons too.
Cath O'Driscoll – Deputy editor
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