Place your bets

October 18, 2010

Hundreds of people just read my post on plotter script packages, but there has only been one comment. I conclude that even software fans are too busy fretting over the coming cuts. The newspapers, Twitter, and departmental coffee rooms are are swimming in gossip, angst, and bitterness. Peter Coles has captured the mood in his latest post, including a long embedded analysis from the ever reliable Paul Crowther.

To be honest, the guts of what Peter and Paul (where’s Mary ?) have said in that post is what we have known for some time. Because STFC has 80% fixed costs, and even more hard-to-back-off projects, a cut of 25% is physically impossible without something drastic being done. This either means STFC will be let off, or something drastic has to be done. Even the rumoured 15% cut leaves more or less the same conclusion. We will be left with a statue of Keith Mason and nowt else. All around the lone and level sands stretch far away. Nothing beside remains.

Yesterday in the Twittersphere there was some brief optimism – people took Osborne’s statement on Diamond  as a sign of support for Science. My immediate reaction was the opposite. He was setting up a rebuttal – “but look, I am investing extra in Science”. The £69M concerned is what was almost certainly earmarked in the Large Facilities Capital Fund anwyay, and will of course have to be paid back to the Treasury later, for which in the next round, some non-cash will again be announced as “more investment in science”.

Now actually of course we probably still won’t know the answer by the end of the week, as the implications will take a while to cascade through BIS and RCUK….

I am so depressed, all I can think is to make a game  of it. Place your bets.


Get your boots on

October 8, 2010

We interrupt Geek Week to wish good luck to those going on the Science is Vital Rally tomorrow. Fraid I have stuff to do, but I will be there in spirit.

That splendid chap Drevan Harris has written an open letter to George Osborne setting out the case. Its very clearly and forcefully written, so if you read nothing else on the subject, read that. The other thing definitely worth a butcher’s is the Scientific Century Report put together by the Royal Society. Chock full of useful facts and figures, and again putting a forceful case, not just for science, but specifically for public spending, especially through the Research Councils.

It contains a figure I copy below, showing public R&D expenditure in real terms from 1970 to 2008. See if you can, without reading the x-axis, locate the period of time occupied by the previous Conservative Government. Not hard.

 

Public R&D 1970-2008, Royal Society Report, The Scientific Century