The King’s Shilling

The panels for the STFC consultation exercise are filling up and starting work. I have taken the King’s Shilling and agreed to serve on the space science and space exploration panel, chaired by Steve Schwarz. I think I am seen as an independent in this context … although I have used all sorts of space-based data over many years, I am not an insider on any space project. A good colleague has suggested to the SCAP list that we only agree to serve under some sort of statement of fundamental disagreement with the process. This is a bit like those French citizens who voted for Chirac with pegs on their noses, to keep Le Pen out. I think that is going slightly too far; but I (and others) have asked that our deliberations should be public, and we can then include a statement of discomfort, along the lines that Walter Gear made for PPAN at the March Town Meeting

Paul Crowther’s web site contains an update today of a meeting that Oxford profs had with Science Minister Ian Pearson, who asked for details of grants cuts. According to the email circulated amongst the SCAP list, Pearson also said that we had to co-operate with the consultation exercise, rather than try to destroy it. I am pretty sure most people’s instincts will indeed be to co-operate to the fullest extent and to do a very thorough job. The result will be to make STFC’s job much much harder. What stands out in the Programmatic Review priority list is that a large fraction of the highest priority things are very exciting but speculative things – grand plans for the future – whereas a large fraction of the lower priority things are projects and facilities that are producing science now, or are just about to. The present is being sacrificed for the future. There is a brave logic to this; but my guess is that the instinct of most working scientists will swing the other way. Of course any sensible programme has some of each …

Here is the weekly reminder of the two mantras :

(1) STFC inherited a budget deficit of £75M from CLRC.

(2) Its the Economy Stupid

My understanding of Mike Green’s commentary on the papers released to him under his FoI request, is that the Executive explained to Science board that “previous inadequate provision by CCLRC” led to a “negative dowry of £40M”. Its not clear what time frame this refers to so we don’t have to agonise over the exact amounts, but at least the basic principle is clear.

This seems to me to be the thing to concentrate on politically. You can complain about STFC’s approach to community engagement; you can disagree if you like about their chosen science policy; but these things are within their rights as an organisation; and they may improve with time. But the political record states that the PPARC science programme was not to be damaged by the act of merger itself; this principle has blatantly been breached. And the extra cost of operating Diamond and ISIS-2, at +£25M/yr, goes on ad infinitum.

Moreover, someone high up understood this problem, and chose not to address it. This is is related to mantra number two.

Because I know these two things are really the problem, I can participate openly in the consultation exercise, and do my best for STFC under their own rules.

Keep your eye on the ball.

49 Responses to The King’s Shilling

  1. Tony says:

    “someone high up understood this problem, and chose not to address it”

    In commercial world this would be failure to do due diligence and might even be a criminal matter – certainly one for shareholders to sack the board.

  2. Watcher says:

    Andy. If you are going to say you know something to be true, you had better make sure you do. The “negative dowry” was raised by STFC as part of its CSR07 bid and was by and large covered by the CSR07 settlement. It’s hard to understand where the statement that “”someone high up …..chose not to address it” couples to reality.

  3. andyxl says:

    Watcher – I do realise that the CSR made a kind of melting pot, so its harder to say “this was that money and that was this money”. And yes the CSR addressed the negative dowry in the sense that Diamond and ISIS-2 ops are ok now (quite right too). But the shuffle left a hole in the rest of the programme. The pea gets shuffled under the cups, but there is still only one pea. Before merger : Diamond and ISIS heading for trouble. After merger : Diamond and ISIS ok, PP and A in trouble.

    I didn’t mean to imply that the “someone high up” bit had the same factual inevitability – sorry, badly written. And it didn’t mean “DIUS didn’t fix the hole in Diamond” cos they did. It means the problem for PP and Astro wasn’t addressed : I realise STFC made further bids, but they didn’t win through.

  4. Watcher says:

    Wrong again I’m afraid. It really does look like you make this stuff up as you go along. The biggest element of the negative dowry was the cost of closure of the SRS. This was explicitly covered in the CSR. That is a matter of public record.

    You clearly have special powers to predict what PPARC’s budget would have been had there not been a merger and so you are able to say for sure that PP and Astro would have been OK. Certainly if PPARC had received the kind of settlement that STFC got then PP and Astro would have been far from OK.

  5. Tony says:

    If PPARC had stayed on its own the government would have funded them at level or more and it would not be in this mess: the government has explicitly committed to this approach to science funding. The only reason that P&A is stripped of money now is because of the merger with CCLRC – that seems to me quite evident.

  6. andyxl says:

    Watcher – the latter part is what Tony said, not me. Of course we cannot predict what settlement PPARC would have received had it still existed. Lets focus on two simple questions.

    (Q1) Shortly before the merger, the National Audit Office report, and subsequently the Public Accounts Committee, stated that the CCLRC budget fell short of its projected requirements including operating costs for Diamond and ISIS-2 by £25M/yr. Presumably you agree that this is a matter of public record ?

    (Q2) At around the same time, i.e. just before the merger, is there a similar straightforward public statement of how PPARC’s projected requirements compared to its budget ? This would be genuinely helpful to know.

  7. Dave says:

    Is the Impact Statement for the merger of PPARC and CCLRC available? Is there a similar one for the CSR outcome? If there is, we should try to get it under FoI. If not, perhaps we should find a friendly accountant and get one produced. It’s the kind of thing civil servants pay attention to.

  8. andyxl says:

    Well maybe Dave. The Watcher is half right, in that if you try to pin it down you get bogged won in ah but what if etc etc. I’d rather stick to the simple statement that CCLRC was bust just before the merger.

  9. John Peacock says:

    I notice that the Watcher has not responded to andyxl’s Q1 & Q2, but let me try in the meantime. I have not heard anyone suggest that the National Audit Office got things wrong. We have seen carefully crafted statements such as Mason’s “the running costs of Diamond have been known since 2003”, but never “and CCLRC could afford them”. It seems that in fact they knew for 4 years that a crisis was coming.

    As for PPARC’s hypothetical future, I know from my time on Science Committee was that the spreadsheets broadly balanced over a 10-year outlook given rather pessimistic funding assumptions. Mason is on record as saying in public that STFC’s budget is basically the old PPARC + CCLRC budgets. QED.

    However, to be fair, the 25M p.a. hole in CCLRC’s budget is an overestimate of its contribution to our current problems. The NAO pointed out that curing the hole would require a 12% immediate uplift in the CCLRC budget. STFC only gets this sort of uplift after 3 years, but nevertheless part of the 75M total problem has genuinely been paid for. The nett problem of about 50M inherited from CCLRC that one sees in FOI documents therefore seems about right.

    So it would be nice to see Swindon acknowledge publicly that CCLRC hangover is the majority of the reason for our 80M problem. Then we can move on to the question of what the remaining 30M might be. Internationals plus underfunding of FEC will be part of it, but I think andyxl has forgotten one other element: Aurora. I haven’t seen specific figures, but I get the impression STFC is gearing up to spend more on going to the moon and mars. I think we should be told how much exactly. I’ll leave you to guess just what scientific priority PPARC Science Committee used to give to that area.

  10. Watcher says:

    Andy. Neither Council was “bust”. Both had aspirations that outstripped their ability to fund under a flat cash settlement. It might make some of your readers feel better to believe that the only reason for cuts to PP and Astro is the merger but that doesn’t make it so and it just isn’t true.

  11. Curious says:

    Watcher, so we cut the aspirations rather than current programs?

  12. andyxl says:

    Watcher – before I say anything else, let me say that it is refreshing to have some comments by someone trying to get across a slightly different viewpoint. Welcome on board. Now….

    “…believe that the only reason for cuts to PP and Astro is the the merger..”
    I didn’t say that. This is the reason for the second mantra. Clearly, whatever problems were inherited from CCLRC and PPARC, DIUS could have chosen to fund all the “aspirations”, but it didn’t; probably because Astro and PP didn’t make a convincing enough case.

    CCLRC didn’t have an aspiration gap; it had a commitment gap. Unless, as the NAO report says, it decided to close down Diamond and ISIS half the year, but I can promise you that as Head of Physics in Edinburgh, that sure aint what I want.

    You are obviously a knowledgable person. Do you have any insight on Q2 – i.e. is there clear evidence that pre-merger PPARC also had an unambigous commitment gap ?

  13. Watched says:

    If you are the watcher, are we the watched?

    CCLRC did not have unfunded “aspirations”, it built a “current programme” whose *running* costs were unfunded. It just never ran until CCLRC ceased to be.

    The unfunded running costs have been known about for years. Draw your own conclusions. We are but pawns in a political game.

  14. andyxl says:

    Lets not get paranoid. The Watcher is obviously a Marvel comics fan – someone of great age and wisdom who looks upon the Cosmos with a dispassionate eye. But also tells us some great stories.

  15. Watched says:

    “The biggest element of the negative dowry was the cost of closure of the SRS” – err, nope. That cannot be, closure of the SRS was decided and costed 4 years ago. The problem is that the Diamond *running* costs were budgeted to be the same as the SRS. As Diamond has much greater (potential) capacity (and its staff costs are higher per capita) this is plainly nonsense.

    I do not wish to dwell on past mistakes.

    I do however want to expand on why I put “potential” in parentheses above. In six months, the umpteen beamlines that ARE STILL operating on the SRS will close. Users haven’t fully really realised this yet. People are doing ongoing research, theses must be written etc. (Andy, I know you are aware the Edinburgh condensed matter crowd are among them.) There are only SIX beamlines operational on Diamond. Users (and therefore their research councils) will then demand more beamlines. But Diamond phase 2 is only on PALS “medium priority” list…..

    And EPSRC has just cut £130M from its grant line.

    I can just see the crisis growing. It is sad.

  16. Paul Crowther says:


    you might want to remove direct quotes from Mike Green’s commentary on STFC SB minutes. As of today, these have gone (i’ve no information why at present..) so i have removed his quotes extracted from these copyrighted minutes, but added the DIUS Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees in their place.

    Since we’re still playing the numbers game, my take on the £80M hole in the cash budget has three main origins.. (1.) ISIS TS2 operating costs (£?M), VAT on Diamond (£10M); (2.) the need to hold back £6M/yr to cover GDP/currency changes for international subs; (3.) the strategic decision to cover Aurora subscriptions from its “core” allocation (£30-40M?), in part to leverage an ESA centre, since the £87M bid for “space exploration” to gov’t was unsuccessful.

    As you (and Peter Warry at IUS session) have noted, STFC strategic priorities don’t necessarily tally with science priorities (although ExoMars did indeed make the upper half of the priority list.. something for you to consider alongside XMM, Herschel etc.). Concerns over securing the long term funding for Aurora were expressed by Phil Willis to Keith Mason in Jan 06, see Q12-13 from

  17. onlooker says:

    My analysis of the situation:

    STFC to DIUS:

    Our plan is:

    – proposed Astro/PP programme
    (you will note this is a big increase mainly due to Diamond running costs, strong Euro)

    – more money for universities via FEC funding of grants

    DIUS to STFC:

    We like science and will give you a 13.6% increase.

    We particularly like the FEC funding as we never thought the universities should raid
    their resources to fund research. We also like Diamond, as part of plan to upgrade the
    Harwell campus to an international standing. We like your plan for Aurora (that will
    also bring an ESA institute to Harwell), but you will have to find the money within your
    own budget.

    We note that our 13.6% increase will not enable you to do all you like, but urge you
    not raid the FEC, Diamond or Aurora lines.

    STFC to DIUS:

    OK, but you do realise that to preserve our future plans, we will have to stop 30%
    of our existing projects?

    DIUS to STFC:

    Consider yourself lucky with a 13.6% increase. Owing to the financial situation many
    governments departments are getting a cut in funding.

  18. andyxl says:

    Paul – I will take your advice w.r.t. direct quotes. I really honestly don’t want to embarass STFC or make life worse than it needs to be; just to keep on at the basic point of the merger liability. I think STFC got a raw deal.

    Re the cause of the £80M hole… well I think you are and right and wrong. You are confusing ultimate and proximate causes. STFC has all sorts of aspirations and commitments. They have every right to try to do ExoMars and ISIS TS2 and try to leverage an ESA centre – why should we single those out as opposed to LISA or VISTA etc ? As community members we may or may not agree with various decisions, but thats life. If they had plenty of money, they could do all those things. If they don’t, they have to pick some. So.. thus far, this is pretty much what the Watcher was trying to say yesterday, and s/he was exactly right, for a normal council in a normal state.

    But … the inherited CCLRC shortfall is qualitatively different, because it relates to COMMITMENTS immediately pre-merger. I know very well that STFC made valiant attempts to plug the gap during the CSR bidding; and that various other problems have arisen since; and indeed if that gap-plugging had worked, and if those other problems had not arisen, we might have been ok. But it didn’t and they did; so the gap remains.

    If we had known the contents of the NAO audit report in Summer 2006 when being consulted over the creation of a Large Facilities Council, might we not have reacted differently ?

  19. Dave Carter says:

    I wish people would stop talking as if Diamond is an Astro/PP facility, it is a facility for Applied Physics, Life Sciences, Environmental sciences, and a small amount of EPSRC funded pure research (e.g. condensed matter). Not that the things it supports are not worthy in their own right, but they are not mainly to do with the ex-PPARC programme (ex-PPARC ex-Programme?)

  20. Dave Carter says:

    Re: onlooker’s reply section 2 (DIUS to PPARC):

    Where is the Haldane principle in all this?

    Re: Andy’s reply to Paul, second paragraph:

    Since this took place before the Programmatic Review was complete (well it still isn’t), where is the peer-review stage which assesses these new aspirations against existing, already peer-reviewed, programmes?

  21. onlooker says:

    Reply to Dave Carter:

    You are right. My hypothetical discussion should have started off with:

    STFC to DIUS:

    Our plan is:

    – proposed Astro/PP programme
    (increase in part due to strong Euro)

    – non-astro/PP programme
    (change in part due to Diamond running costs)

    – more money for the universities via FEC funding of grants

    The rest of my hypothetical discussion is then pretty much unchanged.

  22. andyxl says:

    Dear onlooker – who knows exactly what happened, but basically my educated guess is that your analysis is 100% spot on, with the added subtlety that the initial plan only looked like a very big increase because the inherited CCLRC pot was too small. If that had been fixed before the merger, it would have looked like a very reasonable plan.

  23. Dave Carter says:

    Dear onlooker, I agree with all of this, and I appreciate that you understand that Diamond is not an Astro/PP facility, but does DIUS understand this? You would think so, but John Denham’s webchat replies to John Dainton and Megan cast some doubt (

  24. Watcher says:

    Several things to pick up here.

    Curious: The whole point of the programmatic review, was to not just cut programme, but to build in capability to do some of the aspirational things. That was why the targeted cuts were £120m rather than £80m.

    Watched: err you’re wrong. Yes the closure of the SRS had been planned for some time but DIUS didn’t make provision for it until this CSR. It was known about but wasn’t in CCLRC or STFC’s allocation. How could it be as the costs fall in FY 08/09 and there wasn’t an allocation for 08/09 until the CSR was announced? Thus it was part of the negative dowry but was fixed by the CSR settlement. On the subject of Diamond Phase 2 beamlines, these are funded through the Large Facilities Capital Fund. They are going ahead of course. The PALS prioritisation, I believe, relfects their assessment of the relative priority of getting the Phase 1 beamlines optimised as opposed to commissining Phase 2.

    Paul: Aurora was always in the baseline (in so far as anything is considered to be in the baseline). The money was made available in SR04 and continues as part of the funding in the CSR.

    Andy: There were a number of items in PPARC’s planning that would have been unfunded under flat cash. Some of these things are the aspirations that PPAN now propose to fund from the headroom they want to create. Some examples: SKA, ELT, T2K, LHC upgrades.

  25. onlooker says:

    Reply to Dave Carter re Haldane principle and peer-review:

    The Haldane principle is not absolute. The government does take strategic decisions. Should
    the UK be involved in Solar System space missions? Should there be a world-class science
    centre in the UK? Is material science an important subject? Although the government will
    take advice from scientists on the value of different fields, and will not micro-manage within
    a scientific field, it does (properly in my opinion) retain such strategic decisions within its remit.

    On the peer reveiw aspect, and the balance between future and existing projects, this is within
    the STFC remit. STFC does seem to have misplayed this, by first trying to minimise the scale of the changes, and then not fully bringing the community into this necessarily radical reshaping of the plans.

  26. Dave Carter says:

    So the next question is: is Solar System Exploration a different field from Astronomy, or part of the same field? The answer to which side of the Haldane divide this question falls is depends upon this.

    What I don’t think the government should do is tell STFC what pots it can and cannot raid as in your hypothetical discussion, and then tell the Parliamentary Select Committee that it cannot interfere in STFC’s decisions because of the Haldane principle.

  27. Baz says:

    There is one point which has not been touched upon in this debate as yet: STFC’s £30m underspend in this FY. Whilst I agree that SRS closure has a major cost implication which falls in this new CSR period, there was always an intention to ‘generate’ an underspend to fund the redundancies required as part of the closure. Special arrangements were made prior to the end of the current FY to carry this over to fund those redundancies (in part, at least). However, the actual underspend level was higher than anyone anticipated, so clearly there is much more cash sloshing about within the STFC’s coffers than anyone expected.

    On the question of Diamond, I would point out that if DLS had been built at Darebsury (where it was designed, and by the very people who proposed it in the first instance), it would have cost MUCH LESS to build. Furthermore, there wouldn’t be the need for a massive redundancy program as SRS staff would undoubtedly have transferred with much greater ease to DLS.

    Instead, we see the further enrichment of the *golden triangle* at the expense of a major scientific and economic driver for the North West region, namely Daresbury Laboratory.

    Can anyone tell me if the Wellcome Trust coughed-up their share of the VAT fiasco ?

  28. Watcher says:

    Baz. You are mixing up two issues. The SRS closure costs were allocated as part of CSR07 and will mainly be in next years budget to cover those costs. The underspend this year has been deliberately engineered by STFC with a view to carrying it forward to ease the problem in later years.

    On your last question. It’s the correct question.

  29. Dave says:

    I’ve now got my own copy of the FoI-acquired science board minutes. They make interesting reading and I recommend anyone interest to request their own copy.

    The copyright notice does appear to ignore the legally protected ‘fair dealing’ principles, so quotes from them should be protected from any nastygrams that STFC or DIUS send out.

  30. Paul Crowther says:

    Dave: I haven’t received any personal nastygrams, but don’t want to embarrass SB scientists (as you are well aware my name is already mud as a result of my “factual statement” in the infamous Times article). My reading of the SB minutes puts this committee in a very positive light, so don’t follow the reasoning behind yet another example of STFC “secrecy” (the only politically sensitive item referred to by Mike Green is already on public record from the final IUS Ctte hearing). SB might not like its minutes being made public under FoI, but this is the where the science buck stops at STFC (versus Council under PPARC).

    Watcher: Don’t get the false impression that i’m trying to blame Aurora for anything, since it obviously has great merit to ESA and the UK. My point was that *extra* money was sought in SR04 to support Aurora, for which the govt coughed up (when times were good), but its need for long term funding was always going to be a struggle when the economy did a nosedive – so continued participation would then naturally lead to a squeeze elsewhere.

    In 2004, the RAS wrote in strong support of Aurora, but given its cost, noted that “Much of the funding for Aurora must come from new funding sources” which hasn’t been the case – see On this, if the DTI/DIUS/OSI were hinting to STFC at CSR07 that “space exploration” was something to highlight in its bid, then does anyone know *why* they awarded nothing for it? Had they explicitly stumped up £40M for Aurora, the overall STFC deficit would have been halved…

  31. Watcher says:

    Things are not always as simple as they seem. Examination of the history of PPARC and STFC funding shows that often the big funding increases come with a lable. This lable may stick for one or two subsequent spending reviews then the increased level of funding (including the earmarked funds) becomes the new baseline on which future settlements are based. The money may not be visibly earmarked but it’s still there. Of course STFC could then choose to spend it on something else but having argued for the money for that activity they would have to think carefully before doing so.

  32. andyxl says:

    Dave – personally I am intending to get my own FoI copy of this that and the other. I don’t see the point, as we pretty much know the score anyway, and STFC are over-stretched. We want them to concentrate on fixing the programme, and negotiating with DIUS, not fighting legal fires. Lets finish the consultation, try to provide STFC with sane and helpful advice, and then think about how to target Wakeham…

  33. onlooker says:

    What I would like is for someone to host a wikipedia-type page where a full analysis of the situation – how we got here, what is now happening, and the future options – could be built up by a communal effort.

    Anybody feel like hosting such a page?

    We have lots of data from Paul Crowther’s page, Andy’s blog here, Em and Kav’s STP blog, the web pages of SaveDaresbury, Mark Lancaster’s PP, MIST, the two e-petitions and the other petition, and the FoI information from Ken Peach and Mike Green. This could be all tied together. And I guess there is yet more information and wisdom out there.

    The Wikipedia STFC page does have a ‘funding crisis’ section, but a campaign-type analysis which I am proposing would probably not be an acceptable entry for Wikipedia.

    BTW, are people getting Mike Green’s FOI pages from STFC? I put my request in on Tuesday and have had no response so far.

  34. Watcher says:

    My guess is that the STFC are pumping out replies to the FOI requests as fast as they can and that the lawyers are loving it. My guess is also that if somebody out there was willing to put together the sort of page that The Onlooker is proposing then STFC would give them a job. And since Andy assumes I am full of wisdom I will take another guess and that is that if people stopped throwing mud at STFC and offered to help tidy up then science would be the better for it.

  35. Watched says:

    onlooker: I requested mine on Tuesday morning and it arrived on Friday at 5.30.

  36. andyxl says:

    err.. hopefully this was obvious, but my last comments should have said “personally I am NOT intending to get my own copy of FoI requests..”.

  37. andyxl says:

    re wiki page … well … I could knock something up on the AstroGrid wiki in two shakes of a lambs tail.. but of course if we hear that AstroGrid is down the toilet, we might have to shut it down again… Thought number two : won’t Paul C go off in a huff cos he thinks that’s what he is doing already ???

  38. Watcher says:

    Andy I think the thing to recognise is that there is a corollary to my third conjecture and that is that current situation is damaging for science.

  39. Watched says:

    Watcher: I think everybody is well aware that the current situation is damaging for science. We all want to be constructive and “tidy up”. We do not “throw mud”.

    Nevertheless, there has been maladministration at the top of STFC. Confidence in STFC management has been lost. As with other areas of public life, there must be consequences for those at fault – why should STFC be any different. The “tidy up” must start at the top.

  40. onlooker says:

    andyxl and the wiki: I’m not sure that an STFC-funded project website would be appropriate for what would inevitably be a political discussion. As to Paul C, you make a valid comment.

  41. Watcher says:

    Watched. I was thinking more in terms of improving STFC’s communications (or communication with STFC), which has to be a good thing whatever you think of STFC management .

  42. Dave Carter says:

    STFC’s communications with whom, watcher? The importance of Physics and Astronomy has clearly not been communicated to government, or it has and government has said it is really not as important as we think. Which is it? If we believe what ministers say they do not even realise the damage that they have caused to Physics and Astronomy. Sometimes, from how often they mention Diamond in this context I am not sure they understand what Physics and Astronomy are. Is STFC the correct conduit of this information to and from government? Or is it the Royal Society, RAS/IoP or someone else?

  43. Watcher says:

    Dave, I think you are correct that STFC should not be the only conduit for communications with government. I think all of us have responsibility to continually reinforce the message that investment in fundamental science is important and bodies such as the RAS, R.Soc and IoP have a key role to play. My comments mainly referred to communication between STFC and the community.

    As to whether the government agrees that investment in our science is important, I think the answer is clearly yes and I think they genuinely are doing what they can. But as Andy keeps reminding us “It’s the economy stupid”.

  44. Dan says:

    It’s more than the economy. The main headings that policitians work with are: economic benefits; social benefits (eg health) and the environment (eg climage change) . You might add national security to this list. Many large organisations (public or private) marshall their political arguments under these headings. Of course, these things are intertwined. And as our economy dips the government’s attention focuses on the state of the economy. But serious politicians know that you cant ignore the other two. Maybe economics is where the core of the case for science lies – but physics needs to get smarter at how it articulates its value to the UK under the other broad headings too. I say this as a non-physicist – it’s just how the debate looks to me as someone who is not immersed in the trade.

  45. Peter Williams says:

    Dan – you are absolutely correct. In the accelerator physics group at Daresbury, we are reconfiguring our PR to emphasise that, yes, we are addressing these very topics in our work….
    Economic – synchrotron radiation for drug companies, aeroplane manufacturers…
    Health – the EMMA prototype for cheap ion therapy for cancer (and don’t mention the muon acceleration applications!)
    Environment – accelerator driven sub-critical reactors for safer fission power using thorium, not uranium.
    Security – Terahertz radiation research for better airport scanners.

    I’m going to see if we can push this line when we meet the Minister on wednesday. Yes, we do basic research and yes, we can show how this directly addresses Government science priorities.

  46. Bean Counter says:

    In more than one place in the media I have seen that the offerings PPARC had funded were still considered to be producing good science, and also in several cases were the recipients of recent upgrades/refurbishments/new_equipment/what_have_yous that now will not reap the maximum return on taxpayer investment.

    There may also be costs involved in funding redundancies that might be better spent on generating scientific returns? not to mention the loss of prestige, morale, and international credibility in suddenly having a fire sale or mass closure of existing and respected facilities.

    There are also again potential taxpayer-funded costs that went towards the education of the scientists who will now do who knows what when they lose their jobs…are there plans to easily transition them into the new programmes STFC envisions, or will the economy be bearing the costs of retraining them as stockbrokers and insurance salespersons?

    From purely an economic point of view it looks a bit odd that the STFC was planning to increase the cuts over and above the actual deficit in order to have room in their budget for yet unannounced new offerings. It would have meant ignoring all the costs in bringing current offerings screeching to a halt as well as making it, I would think, a bit difficult to ask the government for more funds to cover the existing deficit when they appeared to be perfectly comfortable increasing that deficit on their own initiative.

    I do understand the Haldane principle but since these actions do not make economic sense they can only really be justified if there is general agreement in the scientific community that this course is the best one from a purely scientific perspective. It does not seem like there is general agreement at this time, unless the media reports of angry scientists are greatly exaggerated.

    The opportunity costs of having scientists focusing on this funding situation instead of on science go without saying.

  47. Dave Carter says:

    Just to echo an email discussion that I had with Richard Wade some time ago, whilst we should play up economic, social and environmental benefits (not sure I follow you all the way to the security issues), I also think that we should emphasise that a major reason for pursuing fundamental science is that it is intrinsically important to know the most fundamental things about the universe.

  48. Dan says:

    Dave – I just meant that that the security issue is on the politicians’ shopping list. I’d actually put the pursuit of fundamental knowledge somewhere in the social benefits of science. It means something to society, not just scientists.

  49. Tech says:

    What about STFC communication to it’s own people.
    What does this say to the people who have contributed so much to make these projects work.

    I am a software developer working on one of the projects listed for cancellation, and for us, this is not just about the money.

    Like several of my colleagues, I made a conscious decision to leave commercial IT and join a science project because I wanted to do something that was worth more than just the monetary value.

    When I joined the project I took a significant pay cut in return for increased stress level and long hours, but we did it because we believed we were contributing to something worthwhile.

    Even if our own project survives, we know that it will be at the expense of someone else on another project, who is going to have years of work and effort thrown away.

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