Stay of Execution

May 24, 2010

So, finally, we hear the faint whistle of air as the axe descends, but it slices into the neighbouring neck. Universities are taking a hit but direct science funding is spared for now. You can read the BIS announcement here and the overall Treasury announcement here. Reactions are all over the interweb already – try Robert Peston at the BBC , the Nature Blog, the Universities UK response, the IOP response, and the New Scientist S word analysis.  Nobody has anything particularly deep or original to say apart from how v.important it is to realise that science funding is an investment. The day before, Peter C at least had a novel line, explaining why things are even more miserable in Wales.

There is an awkward atmosphere, because while things ain’t as bad as we feared, and we are left blustering somewhat, we all know that the awfulness is still to come. The Impending Doom still Impends. The axe whistled past us, but our pardon has not arrived. We are trudging back to the cells to wait. It looks like the PR folk at STFC knew this, and have subtly tried to warn us. This very same morning, the STFC website launched a news page comfortingly entitled “Brace yourself for more cold winters to come”.

Usually of course civil servants rather more skilfull than that. Mandarin-speak is one of the great art forms of our civilsation. To cheer yourself up, check out the humour section of the handy website “How to be a Civil Servant” . (Thanks to Pippa who knows of what she speaks.)

For your convenience, I attach a document summarising the methodology that the Civil Service will deploy to implement the newly announce staff reductions.

Meet The New Boss

May 14, 2010

I just saw a tweet from Lord Drayson that said “helping my children with their homework now I have a bit more time”. I imagine his garden will get spruced up too.

So now there is a new Government, all our troubles will be over right ? The Problem of UK Physics Will Be Solved ! Hmmm. Thinks. Remembers last time there was a Conservative Government. Astronomy budget plummeted year on year. Ahh. Any jobs in America ?

But actually there seems to be a mood of cautious optimism reverberating through the scientific blogosphere and  twitterscape. The new Boss of BIS is the man who should have been Chancellor, the eminently sensible Vince Cable – and the new Minister for Universities and Science is David “Two Brains” Willets. His appointment was warmly welcomed by BBC News, by Times Online , by New Scientist, and by Research Fortnight. Today the New Scientist S-Word blog had the first interview with Willetts.

I guess its early days, but he seems to be making sensible noises so far. Thinks blue skies research is important,  isn’t keen on the “impact” agenda, and says we need a “stable framework”.

Sounds pretty sensible for science in general…. but it doesn’t follow, I’m afraid, that the fortunes of astronomy and particle physics will reverse. I don’t think our problem has been that Paul Drayson thought astronomy was rubbish.

Anyway. About five hours sleep then I am off to Canada for the twice yearly IVOA shindig.