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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Post-mortem III Nuclear

A quick one.

I feel very sorry for the nuclear community. They came into STFC and have taken a hell of a beating for their trouble. What's worse is the comments from STFC that we don't need these types of nuclear scientists; how daft is it to talk down an area of science within your own remit? That's going to make life easy when bidding for cash at the next CSR isn't it?

There is a sense of deja-vu here.

If you compare what has happened to nuclear with what was done to STP you see a pattern emerging. It is as if STFC does not know how to deal with small communities - everything gets tensioned against everything else and the small players get hit the hardest. There is no regard for national capability (at least from the outside looking in).

Is this a direct result of the dire lack of strategy at STFC? When some young STP scientists visited Keith Mason after the PPARC programmatic review they came away with the answer that PPARC had no public strategy (but got the impression that a strategy existed in the CEO's mind); this has carried over into STFC which is a general hodge-podge of different sciences and facilities.

Is this lack of strategy one of the major failings of STFC? A colleague termed the way STFC handles small communities a 'failure of process'.

Any approach to try and fix STFC has to take this lack of clear strategy seriously. We all want to do good science but there must be some mechanism in place which stops larger disciplines inadvertently killing smaller ones, particularly when those small areas may be of important strategic value to the UK.

This is not code for 'impact', I'd argue that astronomy has important value to the UK, as does particle physics.

It's not special pleading for a particular area, its asking for due consideration of the fall-out of tensioning whopping great science areas against much smaller ones and then letting the dice fall wherever.

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