Controversial BAS merger plans dropped

The Natural Environment Research Council has abandoned its controversial plans to merge the British Antarctic Survey with the National Oceanography Centre.

November 2, 2012

The research council hoped the merger would yield savings of around £500,000 a year, as well as increase the impact and "synergy" of the centres' science. However, critics feared that the move signalled a reduction of the UK presence in the politically sensitive South Atlantic, and lamented the loss of the iconic British Antarctic Survey name.

The concern prompted Nerc to bring forward its final decision on the proposal, following a public consultation, to its council meeting yesterday.

In a written ministerial statement released this morning, the universities and science minister David Willetts confirmed that Nerc had agreed it would not proceed with the merger.

The statement reads: "The British Antarctic Survey is a national and international asset that delivers world-class environmental science, and this country's strategic presence in Antarctica and the South Atlantic. The UK's commitment to continuing this dual mission in the region is as strong as ever.

"Nerc has already committed to maintain the funding of the British Antarctic Survey at £42m a year for the rest of this spending review period.

"Looking to the future - though without pre-empting the timing and size of the next spending review settlement - I consider that Nerc should have a discrete funding line for Antarctic infrastructure and logistics from within the ring-fenced science budget to ensure a visible UK commitment to maintaining Antarctic science and presence."

Meanwhile, a separate statement released by Nerc says: "In light of the minister's statement in respect of a discrete funding line for Antarctic infrastructure and logistics, Nerc will be considering ways forward."

paul.jump@tsleducation.com

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