Institute of Physics response to STFC’s programme

The Institute of Physics (IOP) has responded to the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)’s announcement today about its re-prioritised science programme.

Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, President of IOP, said, “The greatest shame about today’s announcement is the reduced investment in people.  With all of the challenges we face, from climate change and energy security to a rapidly ageing population, we urgently need individuals well-trained in physics.  Today’s announcement, which includes a 25 per cent reduction in studentships and fellowships, runs counter to this need.

“The amount needed to avoid this unfortunate cut is minor in comparison to the huge sums of money spent saving the financial sector, surely money can be found to avoid it. 

“The Science and Technology Facilities Council has had a difficult few years and many have been anticipating sweeping cuts in fundamental physics research.

“We note however that the much-criticised process which led to STFC’s submission to 2007’s Comprehensive Spending Review, leading to shortage of funds for astronomers, particle and nuclear physicists, has been revised and improved.  STFC has a difficult hand to play but, having consulted appropriately with scientists towards this new programme for science, they are using the funds they have at their disposal to advance the science, agreed by peer-review, to be the very best science.

“I warmly welcome Lord Drayson’s announcement, which followed the publication of STFC’s re-prioritised programme, that a review panel is being established to address the structural problems that STFC faces.  The announcement is overdue but could be the answer to STFC’s ongoing problems. 

“As STFC has struggled to balance its range of different priorities, from international subscriptions to the management of large facilities and the distribution of grants, it has been the latter which has most often been squeezed and lost out.  Here is an opportunity, with the review, to highlight the need to invest in the UK’s up and coming scientists and give our young people exciting prospects which will open doors that allow them to be particle smashers, rather than derivative dealers.”


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