December 16, 2009
Science Programme Prioritisation 2010-2015
Dec. 16 -- The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) today announced a five-year £2.4 billion investment strategy in world-leading multi-disciplinary science and technology, designed to deliver maximum scientific, societal, international and economic benefit for the United Kingdom in the current tougher financial environment.
"The Council of STFC has approved an affordable, robust and sustainable programme. This has involved tough choices affecting the entire programme including a managed withdrawal from some areas," STFC chairman, Professor Michael Sterling FREng, said.
"This is a major reorganisation of our programme to focus on the top priority items making use of the international subscriptions which, while costly, allow UK scientists critically important access to the world class facilities provided by these international consortia. We have also planned on the basis of the current value of the pound."
Professor Sterling said the strategic consolidation and redirection of the science programme would ensure continued major benefits for the UK.
"Taxpayers can be confident that their significant investment in research will deliver the highest quality, and most inspiring and beneficial, science and technology into the future," he said.
Professor Sterling acknowledged the hard work over many months by the members of Science Board, its science committees and panels, and STFC staff, to ensure Council received the best possible scientific advice.
"Council approved this programme based on the recommendations from Science Board and its advisory bodies, which comprise leading academics from across the disciplines supported by STFC. We also welcomed the advice given to Science Board from other bodies including the Economic Impact Advisory Board," Professor Sterling said.
The five-year programme includes:
As noted above, the programme includes the managed withdrawal from a number of projects and programmes including the Gemini telescopes, the NLS, and UKIRT. (see attachment A).
Chief Executive Officer, Professor Keith Mason, said discussions would be held in coming months with national and international partners, including universities, departments and project teams, on implementation of the investment strategy. This will include discussions with EPSRC and the University funding councils on the impact of these measures on physics departments in universities.
"We will ensure a managed withdrawal from those activities that we will no longer support, taking into account the fact that the academic and research community of scientists is a national resource. We recognise that 'economic and societal impact' is a result of scientific achievement, and that scientific achievement is a result of the underlying academic and research community without whose ideas and drive no innovation would emerge," Professor Mason said.
"The programme adopted by Council is extensive and will require both external and internal re-alignment and change. The managed withdrawal from identified projects will allow members of our scientific communities to redirect their efforts, or where possible to seek other sources of funding for their projects.
"We have already initiated this process with our staff, universities; partner Research Councils, the Institute of Physics and Royal Astronomical Society, project leaders, international partners and others."
Professor Mason said the detailed implementation of some measures would, of necessity, await input from these stakeholder discussions. He said STFC was committed to regular assessment of projects and programmes to ensure scientific objectives were being met and value-for-money delivered.
"Our focus on ensuring the highest possible standards of scientific excellence, as well as delivery of maximum benefit for the taxpayer, underpinned the now-concluded programme prioritisation and will continue to be a core principle into the future," Professor Mason said.
Background to the prioritisation programme:
The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is one of Europe's largest multi-disciplinary research organisations, supporting scientists and engineers world-wide. It operates world-class, large-scale research facilities, provides strategic advice to the government on its development, manages international research projects in support of a broad cross-section of the UK research community, supports universities and projects through grants, provides a range of technology and skills, and works to inspire and enthuse the next generation of scientists, technologists and engineers.
STFC's Vision is to maximise the impact of its knowledge, skills, facilities and resources for the benefit of the United Kingdom and its people and in delivering this, STFC is committed to supporting both curiosity-driven and application-led research. Since establishment in April 2007, the Council's operating environment has changed dramatically as a result of the global financial crisis, including the fall in the value of the pound. The medium and longer term forecasts of the effect of the financial crisis upon public expenditure suggest ongoing tough times for many years to come. STFC therefore conducted a major science prioritisation exercise, commencing in May 2009 and concluding in December 2009. It did so for two reasons:
The prioritised programme that has been adopted by the Council is based on reports from the group of independent scientists who comprise the Council's Science Board and its advisory committees. Other advisory bodies also provided input. This advice sets a clear context for the Council's programme moving forward. The next stage in the process will be to develop an implementation plan. The implementation stage will include discussion with relevant national and international stakeholders.
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