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Friday, February 15, 2008

RAS statement

In a positive move the council of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) has sent a statement to STFC regarding their handling of CSR2007.

Mindful of very strong feelings in the entire astronomical community, the RAS Council expresses a lack of confidence in STFC’s handling of the current funding crisis.

The full text can be found here.

It is interesting to note that although this is quite a strong condemnation of STFC's conduct during the funding crisis the accompanying email to the STFC CEO (which was circulated to all RAS fellows) states that the RAS does not intend to pass this statement to the media or DIUS. I suppose this reflects the hopes of the RAS that they can still work with the current management of STFC.

I'm sure you all know my personal views on that.

Anyway, since the statement has now appeared publicly on their website I would be very surprised if it does not find itself in the hands of the media, DIUS and the IUS select committee.

There are some choice quotes in no particular order:

STFC has failed miserably to communicate with the community.
STFC claims that its Delivery Plan has been and is being arrived at through a process of Peer Review. Unfortunately, despite no doubt very hard work of those involved in this process on PPAN, PALS and Science Board, the community has no confidence in this process and is unlikely to accept the outcome as fair.
The requirement of confidentiality for members of Council, the Science Board, and PPAN and PALS, goes far beyond any legal requirements.
In making its bid to CSR2007, little emphasis was placed on the importance of these areas for UK science and for UK physics in particular.

I particularly like this one:

It was a catastrophic error not to set up an advisory structure below PPAN.
Catastrophic is a good word.

In dealings with international partners, STFC needs to take advantage of the contacts and diplomatic skills of members of the community.
Especially since, to an outside observer, STFC has been demonstrating the diplomatic skills of a retarded squirrel. Which is bizarre since we know from past experience of the many good people who work within the edifice who are good at this sort of thing.

Anyway, well done to the RAS for putting this out there. Of course it is far too late to help the many folks who's grants and entire research areas have been cut and destroyed by STFC in their economy drive.

I'll be interested to see how all the recent words on space exploration now pan out. I was not alone in noticing that the STFC delivery plan was essentially packaging for a host of space technology investigations. I am not against exploring space and I have conflicted feelings about manned space flight, I just wish it could be done without sacrificing so much important science that the UK has worked so long to build up.

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