Russell Group deplores funding cuts for young scientists

16 December 2009

Cuts in funding for young scientists were announced by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) today as part of its review of priorities.

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said:

“We are deeply concerned about the impact of STFC’s decision to cut 25% of its studentships and fellowships, to reduce funding for particle physics and astronomy research in UK universities, and to withdraw from a number of international projects and facilities.

"Although the council consulted widely, we are particularly concerned about the message this decision sends to students and young scientists about the UK’s commitment to physics and astronomy at a time when the US and other competitors are investing heavily.

"Cutting investment in the next generation of UK researchers is a shame at a time when the Large Hadron Collider coming on stream at CERN and unprecedented sources of data available to astronomers probing mysteries of the universe such as dark matter.

"We welcome the announcement by the Science Minister, Lord Drayson, to work with STFC and the research community to address the “real tensions” around the long-term funding of large research facilities, particularly the UK’s involvement in international facilities and programmes which may be subject to significant currency fluctuations.  Russell Group universities wish to be involved in this activity."

Promising a speedy review of the STFC, Lord Drayson said: “It has become clear to me that there are real tensions in having international science projects, large scientific facilities and UK grant giving roles within a single research council. It leads to grants being squeezed by increases in costs of the large international projects which are not solely within their control.   I will work urgently with Professor Sterling, the STFC and the wider research community to find a better solution by the end of February 2010.”

Dr Piatt added: “Russell Group universities have been successful in winning around 70% of STFC’s annual research grants funding (£96M in 2007-08) and host many of the UK’s leading research groups in these areas.  Our universities already facing the real possibility of deep cuts announced in the Pre-Budget Report, and further cuts have the potential to damage the ability of these research groups to undertake excellent research and will impair international collaborations and other partnerships now and in the future.”  

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