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Thursday, March 06, 2008

STP and the Programmatic review meeting

Lots about Jodrell Bank in the media today. Unsurprising really, it is an icon.

Slides from the Science Board town meeting are now available along with a rough meeting report:

STFC are sticking to the same line with regards to STP: decision made by PPARC (same = all).
EISCAT subscription was renewed 6 months prior to the PPARC programmatic review and STFC now claim that the PR recommended that this subscription would be left to run out.

As far as I am aware none of us have seen any official letter to this effect (still waiting on the outcome of our FoI request - now late).

Indeed an important point is that it was rolling commitment - when you pull out you give 5 years notice. As far as I am aware STFC (or PPARC) have not yet officially said that they will withdraw.

Apparently there was a 'clear message' to us 2 years ago that we needed to seek a broader base.

It's funny how mine and others memories do not agree with this. As I have mentioned before (embattled STFC CEO) Prof. Keith Mason did us the honour of coming to address our annual Spring MIST meeting, that year held in Aberystwyth. I remember it clearly as he brought his young daughter with him; she sat in the front row and must have been exceptionally bored. There were many jokes about him using her as a human shield.

He made two main points that I think I can safely say the community took away with us:

  1. It was all our fault that some our instruments were being closed down (and anything else he could pin on us - such as the low settlements in preceding years. I cannot over-emphasize how much he kept saying this).
  2. To be successful we needed to engage with the astronomers more, convince them of our worth since they were the larger community and essentially held the purse strings.

I don't recall anything about seeking a 'broader funding base'. That is not to say that it was not discussed but it can hardly have been a 'clear message'. Fellow STPers who were at that meeting are welcome to offer their insights and recollections in the comment section.

Interestingly in 2003 (while I was in the States) the community started putting together a proposal for cross council consideration (PPARC and NERC) to address the science that fell through the cracks (the fundopause as we call it). That Polar Atmosphere Working Group (PAWG) put together a nice package that then failed because the councils were not set up to deal with it properly (in my and others opinions).

This was well before Keith allegedly delivered his 'clear message'. So you can see that we had already been thinking along these lines.

This 'clear message' business was mentioned in front of the select committee. I wonder whether he has documented evidence to back it up as I am sure a lot of angry STPers have taken issue with his words.

Whilst on the topic of the town meeting, a couple of other points to consider (with the full caveat that I was not in attendance and can only comment with respect to the meeting report):

I see that the STFC line is that it is up to us to sell our science.

I can accept that we scientists have a roll to play in promoting what we do and if this crisis (yes Minister, it is a crisis) has shown anything, it is that we can get our message out.

Of course accepting that fact should not remove the onus from STFC to make the case to government when funding time comes around again - they are the people with direct access to the officials who make the decisions carry out the decisions their political masters make. They are the ones who make up nice presentations for government (seeming pulled from their own imaginations).

I recall Keith commenting some time ago that he had been out-manoeuvred by the other councils in his bid in the CSR. Has anyone found out exactly what he meant by this since it is a curious statement?

From the meeting report I also see that when someone asked for a comment from the (embattled) CEO he was rebuffed by Peter Knight and told that the (embattled) CEO would speak at the end or later. A few questions later we see the (embattled) CEO chipping in happily.

1 comment:

Rob F said...

That was my recollection of the Spring MIST meeting too. You've put my mind at rest - I thought I was going mad!