DIUS on a sticky wicket

January 16, 2008

During the whole STFC-cuts-crisis thingy, a controversial issue has been the question of who knew when just how bad this would be. Was it just an STFC cock-up, or did the Minister know it would be bad, and still not give them enough money ? Through a combination of logic and gossip, I think most of us pretty much knew the answer. My take on this was set out in this wee playlet on December 14th. But now we have proof, cos a bunch of intrepid particle physicists got all the right documents out of STFC using the Freedom of Information Act. The key documents are loaded up here. They show clearly that STFC warned DIUS pretty clearly several times. This doesn’t mean the Minister(s) knew of course. They would have been relying on their officials.

Excellent work by our particle physics chums, followed up swiftly by a piece on the Today programme this morning at 0845. (For those who didn’t catch the Today programme this morning, you can listen again here.) D:reamy Brian Cox tried to explain the difference between Resource, Near Cash and Non Cash to Sarah Montague. Quantum Field Theory might have been easier.

Brian is available for weddings and barmitzvahs.

Brian Cox soft guy, Sarah Montague hard guy

December 11, 2007

When I was a postdoc, I took my science vairy seriously, and so got going every morning as soon as humanly possible. Absolutely the crack of coffee time. As my kids got older, School starting times were a bit of a shock. They start WHEN !!!???!! So anyhoo, I was actually awake at 7:30am when the STFC £80m hole was splashed on BBC Radio 4. Thinks. Can you splash a hole ?

Anyway it was a relief. Sarah Montague interviewed Brian Cox, the friendly media face of Particle Physics. The attitude of most PPers I know last week was worryingly paranoid (the barbarians are at the gates !!), but Brian’s line today was “I am sure this must be some kind of mistake, because the Government can’t have meant to damage Physics Departments this way”. Spot on . Straight after this, Sarah interviewed Science Minister Ian Pearson and she dived straight into Paxman mode. Felt almost sorry for the bloke. Every time he tried the standard parry – “well, lets get this in perspective, because X has increased by Y%” – she thrust straight back with “yeah yeah but are you going to give these poor bah lambs their £80m ?”.

Of course Pearson couldn’t open up his wallet on the BBC, but he did say there would “be a review” and that he is “sympathetic to the problems of physicists”, and .. this is the interesting bit … that they do “have some problems with the budgetary proposals of STFC, but don’t want to interfere because of the Haldane principle”. Wooahhh. Wossat mean ? Maybe “We have noticed that the problem is how much operating Diamond is costing” or “Why do they want to go to Mars ? Leave that expensive stuff to theAmericans” or maybe “The RAL canteen is oversubidised, there’s your problem mate”. Coo. Dunno. Watch this space.