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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

STFC in Private Eye

I have just seen the article about the STFC executives and Diamond in Private Eye ('Diamond Geezers', issue 1120, 21 Dec -11 Jan 2008).

On the one hand it is nice that the current funding crisis is being flagged to the wider community. On the other hand I am not sure how useful the article actually is.

It tells us that Prof. Keith Burnett, Mr Marshall Davies and Prof. Richard Wade (STFC council members all) are also non-executive directors of Diamond Light Source Ltd. This is information that can be gleaned from a trip to the Diamond web site. The article does point out that overlap is understandable since STFC is the major shareholder in the joint venture. In fact I would be worried if STFC council members were not directors!

All that as it is, the main thrust of the Private Eye piece is that none of the three lists Diamond in the STFC register of interests which requires the: "declaration of any personal or business interest, direct or indirect, monetary or non-monetary, that may conceivably conflict with the interest of the STFC".

This is an oversight given that involvement in other STFC funded projects are declared by council members but I am not sure that it is particularly damning. The argument seems to hinge on the £80m shortfall being due to Diamond overspends, something that has been strenuously denied, not just by Diamond but also by the STFC.

Yet this just raises that all important question again; since Keith Mason has told us that the government is very generous and has increased our allocation of money and there are no overspends in the budget, how could STFC have got its sums so very, very badly wrong?

A friend of mine wondered whether they went in expecting a much greater increase in the budget and likened this to the stupidity of buying a bigger house with a massive mortgage on the basis that one might have a better job in 6 months time.

How could they not see it coming and work earlier to mitigate the incredible damage to physics in the UK? Is it sheer arrogant incompetence or did they see it coming and see it as a way to cut those things that they wanted to close down anyway?

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