Physics to feel pinch as STFC comes up short

May 21, 2009

The Science and Technology Facilities Council has outlined additional cuts in its research programme after it received a financial allocation for 2009-10 that was £12 million less than anticipated.

In a statement, the STFC warns there will be "targeted programme slippages and delays", "reductions in facility operations" and reduced support for a "small proportion of ... specific projects" after it received only £491 million of its forecast requirement of £503 million in recurrent funding.

The money is more than the STFC was allocated in the Comprehensive Spending Review, after the Government found an extra £38 million to fund the increased costs to the STFC of subscriptions to international facilities, which have risen dramatically because of the fall in the value of the pound. The Government also loaned the beleaguered council £20 million from next year's budget to manage its portfolio.

However, the STFC says that this is not enough to cover the full science programme it had planned after its programmatic review last year.

"We are trying to bring the costs of our programme to within budget," an STFC spokeswoman said. She added that the exact projects to suffer were currently being decided and that the STFC was also making internal savings.

But 2010-11 looks set to be even bleaker for physics researchers.

Minutes of a meeting of the STFC council held at the end of March report that if there is no improvement in the exchange-rate situation "there would be further pressure (on the budget) in the order of £43 million".

Options mooted to cover the deficit include considering whether any existing international subscriptions could be renegotiated "with the intention of reviewing them when sterling recovered" and looking at whether an element of the UK's subscriptions to Cern, the European particle physics centre, and other international projects could be paid in sterling, with the amount commensurate with that placed in sterling contracts.


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