Blood on the Floor for UK Physicists


The irony of the first Herschel science results coming out on the same day that STFC wields the hatchet. There are limbs lopped off all over the place, either immediately or in the near future. UKIRT, the world’s first infrared optimized telescope and a workhorse of UK astronomy for decades, is to go. We’re to leave Gemini and the ING telescopes on La Palma by 2012. We’re withdrawing from XMM-Newton, Cassini, SOHO, Cluster and much more. The headline list is available here and the full rankings can be found here. For those of you interested in Herschel and Planck, you’ll be pleased to know that these projects are safe, but followup observations of Herschel sources will be more difficult with fewer observatories on the ground available to us.

But the underlying message, and the real damage, comes in the cuts to postdoc and fellowship grants. Facilities like UKIRT and Herschel don’t do science, people do, and the UK will have fewer physicists as a result of these cuts. The 25% cut to fellowships gives an indication of what STFC and, by implication, their political masters, thinks should be the size of the UK astrophysics and particle physics community.

We’re always told that we are rewarded for success, in terms of funding. UK astrophysics is second only in the world to US in terms of scientific output and impact. We do this on much less money than the US. And what is our reward for this success? Cuts.

Thank you HMG. Your efforts to make the UK the best place in the world to do science are in tatters.

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4 Responses to “Blood on the Floor for UK Physicists”

  1. Mark Says:


    Retweeted to spread the word.

  2. Sam Says:

    “But the underlying message, and the real damage, comes in the cuts to postdoc and fellowship grants.”

    I don’t agree. When there aren’t nearly enough jobs beyond the postdoc level, it is downright merciful to cut the positions. Otherwise these really smart people end up wasting their time when they could be developing careers that actually go somewhere. There are far too many postdocs right now, considering the very limited number of faculty positions.

  3. Dave Says:

    Sam: Not all PhD students (also cut by 25%) or postdocs are wasting their time if they don’t end up in the field. I’ve had postdocs quite happily leave for industry jobs of various types where their research experience has been helpful. Better career support and guidance is sorely needed, certainly, and I have some sympathy with the need for a rebalancing, but this isn’t rebalancing. This is butchery.

  4. Kosmische Kuriosa kompakt « Skyweek Zwei Punkt Null Says:

    [...] Kommentare von Astronomy Blog, Megan’s Blog, Physics World, Nature Blog, Bad Astronomy, Herschel Blog, In the Dark, SN Condensate, AstroEngine, e-Astronomer, Askew, Left of Centre und Orbiting Frog [...]

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