Sunday 4 October 2009

Cash cuts hit space science - Times Online

BRITAIN could be forced to pull out of the world’s highest-profile physics project, Cern’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), because of financial failures by a government research council.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has already had to slash university grants, prompting warnings that physics departments may face closure.

Now managers are warning that Britain’s membership of Cern, based in Geneva, is also threatened, along with its involvement in global astronomy projects.

Richard Wade, chief operating officer at the STFC, said: “We may now have to reconsider our memberships of international partnerships including Cern.”

The warning comes as scientists prepare the £2 billion LHC to start next month on its first investigations into the constituents of matter.

Further cuts being considered by Wade could see British astronomers pulled out of the Alma radio telescope in northern Chile and the twin Gemini telescopes, in Hawaii and Chile. Gemini is designed to look 14 billion years back into the past, close to when the first light was emitted.

The STFC has already announced 25% cuts for universities and has failed to post grant cheques.

Andy Parker, head of the high-energy physics group at Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory, said: “The people who pushed through the creation of STFC and those who have led it are turning a thriving area of UK science into a basket case.”

Are there any government agencies that succeed? The Learning & Skills Council went bottom-up a few months ago.

Posted via web from quedula's posterous

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