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The Sciences

The fall of UK science

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitDecember 21, 2009 12:30 AM


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I have been quiet about the woes being suffered in the UK over science funding. That's mostly because it's hard enough keeping up with the attacks here in the U.S.! But the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has been underfunded and in trouble financially for a while now, and they announced last week that they will make up the gap by basically slashing and burning major amounts of science research in the UK. How much? Well, gone will be the UK participation in SOHO, Cassini, Venus Express, and XMM. These are major projects, and just in astronomy. Also gone will be many more projects -- some critical -- across the science spectrum. I don't have the experience or insight to understand all this, but you can read what astronomer Ian O'Neill, Ian Douglas at the Telegraph, and the e-astronomer have to say. Brian Cox, a physicist and friend, has been tweeting about this relentlessly as well. Brian has some insight on the political aspects of this too, and is a particularly good source of information. I don't know how this will all fall out. The money shortfall is a pittance -- about $U.S. 200M -- compared to so many other programs that don't contribute to the public good nearly as much as science does. If this does not get straightened out (and it doesn't look like it will) then this is a great tragedy for the UK and indeed for the world of science.

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