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Posted: January 13, 2008

Physicists make plea to halt research council delivery plan

(Nanowerk News) Physics and astronomy in the UK is under threat and could face serious damage if the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)’s Delivery Plan is not put on ice until the Wakeham Review has had to time to report, according to the chief executive of the Institute of Physics (IOP).
The £80 million shortfall in STFC’s budget has resulted in a delivery plan that will lead to job losses at universities and three leading research laboratories; a 25 per cent cut in university grants; and withdrawal from a number of high-profile programmes such as the International Linear Collider.
Dr. Robert Kirby-Harris, chief executive of IOP, said, “Funds must be provided to prevent damage being done before the Review has had time to report. A moratorium to put the cuts on hold must be established or we risk doing damage before the UK’s scientific priorities are properly considered. We should not press ahead with a delivery plan that was produced in such a short timescale.”
Because STFC has to meet a number of fixed financial commitments, such as international subscriptions, cuts have had to be concentrated in other budget areas. Consequently, the shortfall in funding has had a more serious effect on these areas, which include research grants to universities.
It has been calculated that some university physics departments across the UK will lose up to £750,000 (∼1.5 million) in funds, resulting in job losses and threatening the health of physics.
The government has asked Professor Bill Wakeham to undertake a review into the health of physics. IOP strongly welcomes the Wakeham Review but, as it is not due to report until mid-summer 2008, there is fear that serious damage may already have been done.
IOP will be providing oral evidence to the Innovation, Universities and Skills Select Committee’s Inquiry into the Science Budget Allocation on January 21.
Source: IOP