Peter Coles has blogged about his latest experiences on the UK Astronomy Grants Panel (chaired by Andy Lawrence), so I thought I’d mention that I’ve spent the last couple of days up in Glasgow, not attending the UK National Astronomy Meeting, but as a member of the Projects Peer Review Panel (PPRP). Our job is to review the requests from members of the UK astronomy particle physics, nuclear physics and astronomy communities to get involved in large projects: telescopes, particle accelerators, facilities and satellites. We evaluate the proposals and make recommendations to the Particle Physics, Astronomy and Nuclear Physics Science Committee (PPAN), who in turn make recommendations to STFC’s science board and Executive. Our recommendations and deliberations are secret, of course, but the projects we consider aren’t: this round, we heard from the UK branches of the Solar Orbiter, Euclid, and Plato satellite proposals, as well as from the GridPP computing facility that supports the LHC collider at CERN. Needless to say, the problem remains how to fund all (or at least some) of this excellent science in hard economic times.
Still, this is the only meeting that I’ve ever attended that was cut short due to volcanic ash over Britain — everyone flying out of Glasgow has been scrambling to find an alternative (I was the only one lucky enough to have already booked a leisurely train journey down the West Coast Main Line from Glasgow back into London).