OXFORDSHIRE scientists are celebrating after learning they had been spared swingeing cuts.

Months of campaigning appeared to have paid off when it was revealed that the science budget would be frozen over the next four years. Allowing for inflation, this means a reduction of about ten per cent.

John Womersley, of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) had warned that the Government’s 25 per cent cuts would mean mothballing a major facility such as the Diamond Light Source or Isis Neutron Source at Harwell, which together employ about 800 people.

However, Chancellor George Osborne said science funding would be protected at £4.6bn, saying: "Britain is a world leader in scientific research, and that is vital to our economic success."

Prof Chris Damerell, of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory at Harwell, who had joined the first-ever UK rally in support of science on October 9 in London, was cautiously optimistic after hearing the Spending Review.

"This reflects the eloquent arguments made by many scientists," he said.

He hoped the ten per cent savings would be achieved sensibly, and welcomed the review's confirmation of £69m funding for Diamond.

Prof Demerell said: "It’s up to the funding agencies (particularly STFC) to listen carefully to their advisory panels, and not succumb to the temptation to ‘pick winners’, which over the past three years has been damaging to science under their stewardship."

Neurobiologist Prof Colin Blakemore, of Oxford University, former head of the Medical Research Council, said: "It is wonderful to learn that Government has listened to the scientific community.

"Collectively we have made the case that funding science is not a cost but a way to invest in creating a stronger economy which is the best way to guarantee the recovery that will benefit everyone.

"It will now be important to maintain the dialogue with Government as it reviews budgetary commitments for the future."