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Thursday, January 10, 2008

STFC in the Times Higher

Two nice articles have appeared in the latest edition of the Times Higher Education.

The first (10500 sign petition to reverse cuts to science) is hung on the on-line petition and is already out of date! It does give a nice summary of the woes facing physics in the UK if something is not done to combat the shortfall and disastrous response of STFC. It adds a new twist by considering the possibilities of privatisation:

The protests continued to build as Prospect, the scientists' union, warned that the STFC's plans to deal with its £80 million funding shortfall meant that hundreds of public-sector scientists could lose their jobs and major public research facilities could be privatised.
It is also nice to see questions raised over the merger of PPARC and CCLRC:

Meanwhile, others question whether it was right to merge the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council with the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils to form the STFC given that the budget shortfall was in effect inherited from the CCLRC.

"I don't think the PPARC council would have gone along with the merger if it had realised this would be the outcome," said Roger Davies, head of physics at the University of Oxford and a former PPARC council member.

I had serious misgivings at the time (as did many, many others that I have spoken to) but was willing to be led by older and wiser heads. Especially since it was strongly implied that in reality there would not be much in the way of other options. Of course one could also say that it is too late to be crying over spilt milk; the chance to object has passed and we are where we are in regards to funding councils. Of course this could change depending on the results of the Wakeham review; sadly I fear that will be far too late to save Solar-Terrestrial-Physics which seems completely doomed at the moment. It would be nice, if it does survive, to see solar systems science (solar, solar-terrestrial and planetary physics) have more say in its funding decisions.

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