Quick update on the STFC funding crisis and the University funding crisis, both of which are now getting full attention.
STFC has written in New Scientist in defence of where the cuts fell following criticisms that, for example, nuclear physics had been singled out. The response by Professor Brian Cox (here and part two here) suggested not everyone agreed. The chairs of the five panels that performed the reviews that lead to the cuts have also written of their anger at being made to do this and warned of a resulting brain drain. The Magnetospheric Ionospheric Solar Terrestrial community (MIST) has released their views on the prioritisation program and the chair of the Near Universe Advisory Panel has written to the chair of STFC with questions and received a reply. Meanwhile, the three political parties lent their science ministers and shadow science ministers to a discussion on the future direction of science funding and Research Councils UK has suggested that the growth in numbers of researchers be curtailed during the overal economic recession irrespective of the health and growth of the sectors of the economy the researchers are involved with (and irrespective of the health of UK research and university tuition). Sounds like the sort of petty cash raid that happened in the closing years of PPARC, when the government would claim to have invested more cash than ever in it, then taken back some of the money to pay other departmental debts.
On to the separate cuts on the overall university structure. Representative of the Russell Group of universities have warned of the consequences of the action. The Conservatives have announced a two year delay in the Research Excellence Framework, which will decide on how to cut up the available funding. The welcomed delay is to allow time to see if ‘Impact’ – the controversial measure introduced in the REF to quantify direct economic and social benefits from research to be carried out – can really be quantified. Meanwhile in today’s Times, Chris Patten makes his views on the cuts and threats to blue sky and basic research known.