Cardiff Secrets*

September 9, 2009

I am in Cardiff for a meeting of the Herschel ATLAS consortium. ATLAS is a big open time key project – hundreds of square degrees to S(500 micron)=53 mJy. Matt Griffin gave a general Herschel update. He showed us some pictures which he stressed very heavily could not be discussed elsewhere, or he would have to kill us. And apparently there are other things that he cannot show us at all, otherwise Goran Pilbratt will have to kill him. But rest assured folks its all looking pretty damn groovy and hitting the specs. Two things that aren’t exactly a secret. First, although PACS and SPIRE are working pretty to much to perfection, HIFI is temporarily switched off while they figure out whats wrong. (It will soon get switched to backup electronics). Second, deep images are confusion limited. So ATLAS took the right decision doing a wide shallow survey 🙂

Then at lunch someone-who-shall-be-nameless said how much s/he was enjoying the comments on my blog, especially the recent ELT / ESO funding revelations, and mentioned that the SKA team had discussed whether to pitch in with SKA PR, and took an explicit decision to stay clear. So. Obviously. Anonymous contributions welcome.

Tonight we are trooping off to Cardiff Bay for dinner. As far as I can tell, the restaurant is pretty much right on top of The Rift. So if this is my last post, you’ll know why…

* In case you thought this title meant Walter had told me where the skeletons are, tough. We did converse but no beans were spilled. Do skeletons have beans ? (Please stop now, Ed..)

RAE games

April 6, 2009

These are grim times for Welsh astronomy. The cancellation of Clover follows on from a surprisingly bad RAE result for Cardiff. Peter Coles has analysed the RAE results several times over. In this first post, he listed straight weighted mean scores (in which Cardiff came 35th). In a second post, he introduced “research power”, meaning volume times score, which brought Cardiff up to 22nd. Then on January 29th, when HEFCE announced its funding algorithm (7,3,1,0 for buckets 4,3,2,1 respectively) he gave another league table showing expected relative funding, with Cardiff now 27th. (Note however that the Welsh and Scottish funding councils have not yet announced their funding algorithms…)

Last week the RAE published the sub-profiles on which the final profiles were based – i.e. we now have separate profiles for research outputs, for environment, and for esteem. I downloaded the UOA19 (Physics) table, scraped the numbers, and played plotting games with Topcat. To help you play your own games I am attaching a .doc file which is really a CSV file in disguise … Unfortunately WordPress won’t let me upload a VOTable (its XML) or even a plain .txt file, but it does allow .doc files. You can convert the .doc file into plain text, and then Topcat or Excel will read it in.

So here is one interesting thing that jumped out at me – environment scores seem to have been quite crucial. The figure displayed here shows the research outputs score (bue dots) and the environment score (red dots) plotted in turn against the overall score. Compared to research outputs, environment shows a larger range, a larger dispersion, and gradient which is distinctly larger than unity. The red dot way off the correlation is Loughborough – environment score 1.1 even though it scored 2.66 on research outputs. On overall score, Loughborough came 32nd. If its score had been as good as its outputs score it would have been 14th. Cardiff was actually slightly rescued by its environment score; it scored outputs=2.22 and environment=2.74. (Edinburgh had a fairly consistent 2.8 and 3.0).

Results from RAE

It wouldn’t be wise to overinterpret individual scores. But it does look like the panel had more marked opinions about the quality of research environment, or perhaps allowed themselves bolder judgements. Any other patterns emerging ? Read the rest of this entry »