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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

STFC - we decide, you do as you're told

Some more on the STFC. This is an excerpt from a statement on the STFC website regarding the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007:

Council also reaffirmed that a major restructuring of its activities is necessary to provide a sound foundation for the next decade and to create headroom for new opportunities, crucial to the continued vibrancy and competitiveness of its research community.

Restructuring of its activities. I guess that in plain speak they will be changing what it is they are bothered to fund.
Headroom for new opportunities. Okay that sounds reasonable, we cannot become fixed in our ways and need to allow for potential future developments. Interesting though, I had not realised that the way we were working was stymieing opportunities. I thought that there were lots of new things such as Diamond (ooh, overspend!) and the LHC for example. New cutting edge astronomy telescopes like LoSKA. Exciting satellite missions like the recently launched STEREO and future plans like Bepi Colombo and Solar Orbiter. There are lots of new things in the pipeline, just as there have always been.

It is not clear to this scientist exactly how we have been failing up to now in our ability to develop new opportunities as the sentence above implies.

Given the settlement this process of restructuring will now be accelerated. Some tough decisions will have to be made and in some cases relatively quickly. The Council has asked the executive to come forward with detailed plans in consultation with its Science Board and the PALS and PPAN Committees.

Given the settlement... Hmm, 'because we cocked it up we must now push through as much of our plans through as possible'.
Some tough decisions.
Well actually some very easy decisions, if the chief executive does not like it then the plug will get pulled. If not this time around then definitely in the next 'programmatic review'. Remember boys and girls, 'peer review is a blunt tool'.
The Council has asked the executive to come forward with detailed plans.
I am afraid that too many scientists have become jaded in the past couple of years. I bet that this sentence will be interpreted to mean that the chief executive will essentially pick whatever he fancies to be the future science direction though he will discuss it with some committees, the details of which may or may not be passed onto the wider community. Don't bet on any wider consultation though. I hope that my cynicism is unfounded.

Council recognises that the restructuring of our activities will impact on both our research community and our staff but believes it will put us on a stronger footing for the future. We will aim to reach decisions and remove uncertainty as soon as is possible.
So many of you will lose your jobs, and those that don't won't have much say in what they can research anyway. But don't worry because we will be stronger for it. Well those of us who still have jobs will be.

Remove uncertainty. Good we don't like uncertainty. Much better to know for certain that it is time to bend over and get screwed. Essentially we will do as we are told because what we want does not matter; that is my interpretation based not just on the words but also the climate under which we have been operating for the past couple of years. Context is the key and if STFC disagrees with my assessment perhaps they should consider why I came to it and the environment of distrust they have fostered that has led us here.

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