Can we fix it?

Last week in Belfast the Chief Executive of STFC - Keith Mason - showed a slide with e-MERLIN now apparently no longer in line to be cut. When questioned as to the apparent about-turn from the Programmatic Review, Keith said that the astronomy community were "deliberately mis-understanding" him. If you have a spare hour or two you can listen to the whole thing for yourself. You can also read Andys take on it too.

Basically, STFC can't afford everything that they were already paying for last year even if the Government insists that budgets are up. STFC are going to cut projects that have already been classed as "excellent" by the peer review process. Gemini and e-MERLIN are both possibly safe (for now) but only after lots of negative press coverage. I suppose none of this should be too surprising and follows a style of government similar to that discussed on the This American Life podcast last week; we may put up a bit of a fight but they know that after a few apparent victories they will still make the cuts. The ruck in the carpet just pops up elsewhere on the priority list. Newsnight's Susan Watts does a fairly good job of summing everything up with a long package on tonight's programme. Andrew Jaffe has comments on that package.

I don't think we should be happy about STFC's funding settlement from Government even if Keith Mason thinks it was great. I'm not happy that STFC won't be promoting science to the government and astronomers will have to do that themselves. I'm not happy that STFC thinks that scientists shouldn't expect to be paid properly. I'm not happy that "excellent" projects will be cut. I'm not happy that good people in Swindon, Daresbury, Edinburgh, and Oxfordshire will probably lose their jobs.

Can UK astronomy recover from this mismanagement? In the words of Bob the Builder and a possible US Presidential candidate, "yes we can". Given the current economic climate, and Keith Mason's impression of the Iraqi Information Minister, I'm finding it hard to believe at the moment.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 10th Apr 2008 (01:29 BST) | Permalink
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