£80 Million

Or 8×107 pounds sterling. That’s how much the STFC are planning on slashing from the UK’s physics and astronomy budget. In m s-1 that’s a significant fraction of the speed of light. I guess the point I’m driving at (in my own little way) is that this is rather a lot of money to simply cut from a budget. Frankly, it’s a little concerning.

So let’s backtrack a little… Who the hell are this STFC and why are they messing us around? Well, according to their website the STFC were formed this past year by Royal Charter. Basically, they are the result of a merger between CCLRC and PPARC, and have taken full responsibility of nuclear physics from the EPSRC. They were formed on April 1st 2007. Which should be funny, because their recent actions sound like they should be some kind of a sick joke. Unfortunately no one’s laughing.

Essentially, the newborn STFC has managed to alienate itself from many of the scientists it’s intended to represent by pulling out of several major projects, including the 8-metre Gemini telescopes in Chile and Hawaii, the Isaac Newton telescopes in the Canary Islands and high energy gamma ray astronomy projects. Concerningly, they’re planning to “review funding” for a number of other facilities including the Liverpool Telescope, the Merlin radio interferometer, Astrogrid and (most concerningly) UKIRT in Hawaii. Basically, this threatens to greatly damage the UK’s astronomy research, as many of these are key facilities. UKIRT is actually one that our research group has connections with.

From the news, many scientists are shocked and concerned over this news, and some research groups and even departments may subsequently threaten to close. All of this is bad news. For me as much as others, because I suspect that things are going to get a bit more competitive in this field. The thing is, it would seem, not only is there a concerning lack of communication between the research council and the scientists it speaks for, but the council does not seem to be keen on addressing the concerns of those scientists. Part of me can’t help but suspect that the STFC was only formed because the PPARC would never have agreed to such radical changes. A deeper part of me wonders if this is yet another consequence of needless wars against countries we shouldn’t be interfering with.

The final kick in the teeth is that this action could well be seriously damaging to the UK’s reputation at the international level. Perfectly understandably too. No one wants to collaborate with someone who’s happy to sit through the planning and initial stages of a project, only to decide against continuing once everyone else is committed. I’m starting to become extremely dissatisfied with this country’s conduct. Money wise, it doesn’t seem to know what it’s doing.

STFC. Heh… STFU, more like.

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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