What's going on?

What are the astronomy blogs talking about right now? Unsurprisingly, the 100 Hours of Astronomy is quite far up the list as is the International Year of Astronomy.

Spacebuzz - 100 Hours edition
The buzz during the 100 Hours of Astronomy CREDIT: Stuart
Two items of note are numbers 9 and 10 which refer to the UK STFC's withdrawal of funding from the Clover experiment in order to save £2.5 million. Clover was ranked alpha-4 by PPAN last year (5 being top and 1 being lowest) so this seems quite surprising. This swingeing cut has been covered by Peter Coles, Alan Heavens (a guest at e-Astronomer), Sarah and Physics World. It seems to be yet another example of the fall-out from the physics funding crisis (what crisis?) that started to become apparent at the end of 2007.

Another side-effect of the funding crisis is the reduction in postdoc jobs (the jobs after finishing a PhD). Last year at the National Astronomy Meeting we heard that postdoc places would be reduced by 10-25% over the three year period of funding (the CSR) even though STFC can claim to be spending more on research because they were now paying for the full economic cost of academics. In reality, less research will be done and more young researchers will leave the UK.

It is funny how certain economic institutions in the UK are receiving billions of pounds for making huge mistakes when physics is being forced to cut jobs and world class experiments to save the comparitavely small amounts of a few million pounds. It isn't even as if astronomers can now get jobs as stockbrokers as Keith Mason suggested last year during a House of Commons Committee Meeting.

All this leaves me wondering just what the plan is for UK astronomy. Which bits will be allowed to remain? What do STFC think everyone should be studying or building? Should I be digging out the Save UK Astronomy banner again?

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Friday 03rd Apr 2009 (23:57 BST) | Permalink
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