Select Committee slams Government... and my boss - ePepys
30th Apr 2008
02:06 am - Select Committee slams Government... and my boss
The Science Select Committee just released the report into its enquiry about the present funding crisis in Particle Physics and Astronomy. It was pretty damning of the DIUS and the management of my employer, the STFC. I've not yet finished the full report, but from what I have read, I haven't found anything to disagree with. I am impressed by how they seem to have grasped the essential issues and make excellent recommendations (and not just those that say we should be fully funded).
I think a nice summary of how we got into this mess can be made with quotes from the report.
- "in merging two Research Councils [to form STFC], one research community [Particle Physics and Astronomy] has been saddled with the debt of another [Diamond and ISIS TS2], despite assurances from the Government that STFC would be formed without any legacy issues."
- "the Government’s expectation that STFC, having been formed in April 2007, would be ready for the 2007 CSR was overly ambitious"
- "The Science Budget increases do not fully cover Government-determined spending commitments, such as the requirement for [all] Research Councils to cover 80% of the full economic costs of research." "Additionally, large parts of the budget are tied to cross-council programmes that largely follow a Government agenda. It is of course acceptable for the Government to set priorities for UK research but not for it to micromanage individual Research Council budgets." "All the other Research Councils have marked increases [while] STFC has received a flat near cash allocation that will erode against inflation." This "turned the Government’s PR fanfare into a PR disaster."
- "DIUS left STFC with a large hole in its budget, and STFC managed its allocation poorly." "MPs are particularly critical of the way the STFC’s management has handled decisions to withdraw from, or reduce involvement in, projects, such as the International Linear Collider, Gemini Observatories and ground based solar terrestrial physics facilities." "This raises serious questions about the role and performance of [STFC's] Chief Executive, especially his ability to retain the confidence of the scientific community as well as to carry through the necessary changes outlined here."
- Perhaps I am naïve, but I hope there will be some movement as a result of the Wakeham Review (or rather as a result of the outcry, but using the Review as mechanism).
- A number of people I know at RAL have already left as a result of the voluntary redundancy and early retirement programmes. This was a direct consequence of the cuts, so it is already too late for these people (of course it was their choice, but the research they were doing will now be hard to recover).
- I was quite impressed by the consultation process on the Delivery Plan, which involved elections and everything. Of course I don't know whether the feedback will be heeded, but it was a hopeful sign after the secrecy in which it was initially drawn up.
- Select Committee Report and press release
- Lame STFC press releases from Chief Executive and Council
- Press release from the Particle Physics Action Group with good quotes from some of my colleagues.