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3 Responses to “Reports”

  1. stfcneutrons Says:

    Report on: IOP Meeting to discuss the STFC 2009-10 Budget 14/07/09

    This meeting was called by Tajinder Panesor of the IOP to discuss the current budget plans of STFC and their future intentions, or as they put it their vision. The meeting was chaired by Peter Main of the IOP. On the STFC side the representation was to be Keith Mason, Richard Wade, John Womersley and Janet Seed. As it turned out Keith Mason failed to attend since his car had broken down somewhere in North Wales. There was a range of people at the meeting representing astronomy, astro-particle, particle and nuclear physics. The neutron side of the house was represented by me, Paolo Radaelli from Oxford and Ian Tucker from Unilever.

    The initial format of the meeting was a presentation by Richard Wade on the STFC budget and its distribution followed by a contribution by John Womersley on the “Vision” of STFC for the future. I have asked both of the speakers to make their slides available on the STFC website. I believe this will happen and I’ll pass on the URL when it becomes available. This will be sometime after the “Vision” is announced at the Harwell Campus, RAL in the coming days.

    Richard’s talk essentially covered the past history of STFC and the current problems with the budget. The problem is associated with the International Subscriptions and the large recent fluctuation in the exchange rate. A naive view would be that at least some of the changes in costs would be covered by the reduction of GDP but there are phasing problems of course. The budget is dominated by the CERN & ESA contributions and destabilised by the currency fluctuations, especially ESA but ILL, ESRF also hurts here. Richard seemed to be open to considering a further loan to cover the “neutron hole” in the New Year when both ILL & ISIS could be unavailable. However, they already have a loan of £20 million from DIUS/BIS to pay back and no promise of help for any exchange rate problem in the future.

    John’s presentation on the future plans wasn’t particularly impressive and rather waffley probably since it suffered from the STFC disease of trying to satisfy everyone to a certain extent. They want to make a case for “fundamental science”, and that does include us and isn’t just PP & Astronomy, but also want to claim they satisfy various governmental priorities, which is ISIS, ESRF, Diamond & ILL in the short term. One of their main selling points would be the attractiveness of STFC science to young students. Sounds good, but we aren’t in this game, “attractiveness” seems to be a feature of Particle Physics and Astronomy primarily.

    In the Q & A session that followed Paolo and I gave them a hard time, but its like hitting a soft centre, they agree that the cuts to ISIS can’t really be justified (the word “criminal” was used by someone from STFC) but they made them because they can and other changes would be much more difficult. Interestingly we seemed to have support in our criticism and complaints from everyone, STFC, IOP, RSC, RAS, PP and Astronomy although that won’t make any difference.

    The final message from STFC seems to be “STFC needs your help”. They want us to help them make a case for more money for the subjects they cover and keep quiet about the internal distribution and our feelings about their inefficiency. My own opinion about this is that it would probably help if we all stand together and this meeting was an example of how people from different backgrounds can agree (in that everyone seemed to think the ISIS decimation was ridiculous). It will, of course, involve a lot of tongue-biting when talking to journalists etc and there are limits to how much we can just accept decisions from STFC without screaming back at them. However there can be little doubt that getting more money into STFC is our only hope of maintaining the work of the Research Council. STFC need to do much more in consulting and sampling the views of their communities. As chair of NAP (Neutron Advisory Panel to PALS) I tend to feel that STFC does a very poor job of gauging the view of the community. Both NAP and PAP seem to have to operate with their hands tied behind our backs and PPAN seems to make most of the running (Richard Wade believes that this interpretation is wrong and I just don’t understand how things work). STFC want us to talk to politicians and especially the current opposition since they can’t, given the timescale for the next election. Any ideas on how to do this would be appreciated. Again my own feeling is that this should be a task for the IOP, RSC and RS. They need to do more in orchestrating science funding at STFC, rather then just sitting back, as we all do, and complaining about the results.

    Don Paul
    Department of Physics
    University of Warwick

  2. Roger Cowley Says:

    I consider that the difficult point is where to enter the system. In order to get more funds for STFC we need to convince the people who make the decisions about the allocations for STFC and for EPSRC. Who is now the scientist who has been brought into the DIUS? In the past lobbying at this level has had some success.

  3. Mark Lancaster Says:

    As far as I know the scientists/contacts within government that had influence (this may have all changed in the Mandelson era) are:

    Paul Williams – sits between the minister and the research councils and for example sits on CERN council representing the UK with Richard Wade.
    John Beddington – chief scientific advisor to the government.
    Adrian Smith – Director General of Science and Research at DIUS
    Simon Fraser – Mandelson’s permanent secretary (the role Ian Watmore played for Denham before going to run the FA !)

    Speaking as a particle physicist I’m very pleased to see the neutron/muon community lobbying and personally I think our best chance of success is for people outside of the various communities to lobby in a general fashion. Getting non-STFC scientists and non-scientists and people in industry to point out to HMG how insane it is to underfund fundamental science will I think resonate most. A quiet word from a friendly industrialist in Mandelson’s/Adam Afriyie (Cons) ear would help a lot.

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