Thanks to comments on the e-Astronomer’s blog we now have confirmation of a funding crisis in 2010-2011 for the UK astronomy and particle physics communities.
‘…there is indeed a looming deficit of circa £ 40M for 2010/11, due largely to increases in major international subscriptions as a result of exchange rate fluctuations. Over the last year alone the subs to ESA went up by £17M and CERN by £5M. DIUS has helped out for the last 2 years but nearly half of their £90M subsidy was in the form of a loan, to be repaid (presumably to BIS) in 2010/11’ said Paul Crowther.
[This would suggest that it’s in our interests to campaign for the UK to join the Euro]
There was a further, even more worrying comment from Richard Wade:
‘…the real concern, that has lead to the current restriction on grants, is the future of public spending… the focus of the current prioritisation exercise is not just on balancing the books for next year but more importantly on preparing for likely tough decisions as public spending is squeezed.’
While this isn’t unexpected, it is rather galling that this comes up in the same week that it’s revealed that the UK Home Office is wasting money on a scientifically flawed DNA-based race profiling system and the Ministry of Defense is spending four times as much money per flying hour to keep its aging Puma fleet on life support than a proper replacement would cost. It’s also worth noting that the entire STFC funding debacle for the last two years, including this latest installment, amounts to less than the price of two Eurofighters.
It seems that if you’re pandering to the xenophobic paranoia of the Daily Mail readers or propping up lame duck industries rather than saving soldiers’ lives in Afghanistan, then the coffers are open. If you’re trying to find out how the universe really works then you can’t even have the funding equivalent of scraps off the table.
And now I’ve got that off my chest, I return you to your normally scheduled news about Herschel…