“Banker’s bonus” to retain UK’s pre-eminence in particle physics and astronomy

13 May 2011

The Institute of Physics (IOP) has welcomed the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee’s report on Astronomy and Particle Physics, which warns of the damage that cuts to research and capital budgets will have.

Institute of Physics News

Looking forward, evidence suggests that funding for particle physics and astronomy will be around 50% lower in 2015 than its level six years ago in 2005.

Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, President of IOP, said, “The UK has a strong history in these areas of research and we are jeopardising our nation’s standing. We are second only to the US but I fear it will not remain this way if we continue to under-invest.

“Reduced funding sends worrying signals to young researchers about the value of scientific research. Some of the greatest casualties of this under-spend so far have been outreach projects, which are instrumental in honing young people’s interest in science.”

One focus of the report is the UK’s planned withdrawal from all Northern Hemisphere optical and ground based astronomical facilities, which the committee warns could see UK leadership and competitive advantage lost to international peers.

As Jocelyn told the BBC, “It only takes £2-3m to keep several Northern Hemisphere telescopes operating. The amount seems to me remarkably little and I observed when we met with the committee that it would be no more than a banker's bonus."