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.