Job cuts 'catastrophic' for astronomy and physics

Job cuts 'catastrophic' for astronomy and physics

A committee of MPs has echoed the union's warning that budget cuts facing the Science and Technology Facilities Council risk the UK's pre-eminence in astronomy and particle physics.

A report from the Commons Science and Technology Committee said STFC is risking the UK's ability to stay at the forefront of future developments by focusing its astronomy and particle physics programmes into fewer areas.

Chair of the committee, Andrew Miller MP, said: "The idea that subjects like astronomy and particle physics do not provide immediate economic returns and therefore can be sacrificed at the altar of cutbacks is a nonsense. Other countries are getting it right: invest in science and innovation now and reap the longer-term rewards of economic growth.

"If the UK is seen to send out a message that these scientific fields deserve to be relegated to lower divisions, what hope is there for inspiring the next generation of scientists?"

Commenting on the report on behalf of Prospect's members in STFC, head of research Sue Ferns said: "A 20% cut in funding over four years and the subsequent reduction in facilities will not only affect the UK's ability to grow the next generation of astronomers and physicists, but is risking the world-leading expertise we already have.

"The impact this will have on UK astronomy could be catastrophic and felt for years.

"The tendency to treat fundamental and theoretical subjects such as astronomy and particle physics as the poor relation because they do not provide an immediate monetary return is foolhardy and short-sighted - a view clearly based on political timescales."

Up to 129 jobs are set to be lost in the current round of redundancies within the STFC, representing around 7.5% of the total workforce.

The losses will have a direct impact in the fields of accelerator physics, particle physics and engineering technology, and the UK's ability to compete in these disciplines.

A Prospect news release has today condemned these cuts.

Read the select committee report here