The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and the Institute of Physics (IOP) have today responded to the statement by Lord Drayson, Minister of Science and Innovation, setting out reforms to the structure of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, president of IOP, and Professor Andrew Fabian, president of the RAS, said: “We thank Lord Drayson for initiating this review to resolve the structural problems caused by the three disparate strands of science that STFC funds.
“We have been particularly concerned about the way in which unforeseeable rises in international subscriptions due to the falling value of the pound have put extreme pressure on the funding available from STFC both for research grants and the running of UK-based facilities. Today’s announcement demonstrates that the problem has now been recognised and we look forward to seeing how it will be addressed. IOP and RAS trust that the Treasury will recognise the importance of science by taking responsibility for currency fluctuations.
“The longer-term commitment to planning for our superb national facilities is really welcomed. Only through sustained investment and planning can researchers using national facilities like the Diamond Light Source, the Central Laser Facility and ISIS maximise the return on the investment which the UK has already made.
“We are encouraged that Lord Drayson agrees that the grants should remain with STFC since this will also maximise the return on the UK’s investment in the overseas telescopes and accelerators used by the researchers in those fields, as the grants and international facilities can be managed most effectively together.
“We now look forward to working with Professor Sterling in helping to ensure that STFC is able to deliver the very best science programme.
“Looking at the science base as a whole, we remain concerned about the overall impact on science funding as the pressure on the public purse becomes increasingly acute. We urge that the government continues to recognise the value of investment in the science base and funds accordingly.”
To see a copy of the announcement, go to http://www.stfc.ac.uk/PMC/PRel/STFC/STFCMinisterialReview.aspx