Biting talk

March 29, 2002

Disgruntled physicists, hit by budget cuts to pay for British membership of the European Southern Observatory, are biting the hand that once fed them.

They are attacking Ian Corbett, who was director of science at the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council when ESO membership was negotiated. Since then, physicists have discovered a £12 million hole in the particle physics budget over the next three years.

Space science is also under pressure as the ground-based astronomy programme has already borne the brunt of joining the ESO, with £5 million of annual savings, including the loss of 42 full-time posts.

Now the crisis is set to hit prestige astronomy projects, as UK involvement in new missions and experiments planned by the European Space Agency and the ESO may be reduced. Meanwhile, Dr Corbett has settled into his new job as, erm, head of administration at the ESO.

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