I’ve been distracted from preparing a presentation trying to make the sure the UK (and, yes, our group at Imperial in particular) gets its fair share of the dwindling UK astrophysics budget: Newsnight has a pretty extensive package, filmed over the last few weeks, discussing the ongoing astrophysics funding issues. Most impressive was the strong editorial line, starting with always-irascible host Jeremy Paxman’s opening comment that “the consequences [of the funding cuts] haven’t been thought through. And they could be dire.”
From there, Susan Watts presented interviews with luminaries such as Astronomer Royal and Royal Society President Martin Rees (describing the situation as “poor management and poor planning…. ineptitude”), Royal Astronomical Society President Michael Rowan-Robinson, and footage from the NAM Town Hall meeting with the STFC Chief Executive Keith Mason. Watts explicitly asks “Who mismanaged what?” and interviewed Mason, “the man many of them [the astronomers] hold responsible”, who could only say that “we have to think in new ways”. Indeed.
In what I assume wasn’t a coincidence, the government today released the PM’s response to the petition to “reverse the decision to cut vital UK contributions to Particle Physics and Astronomy.” Alas, it just seems to be parroting the comments of the STFC Executive over the last few months. Roughly paraphrasing: “Actually, there’s no cut. Really, it looks great, if you only look at the numbers we tell you to look at. OK, well, it’s not a bad cut, anyway, and maybe the current review will convince us to make it better in the future. Oh, just stop complaining, we really love science.”