Science 'should unite'

April 12, 2002

An independent Europe-wide body is needed to oversee the planning and construction of large science facilities.

Delegates at this week's Institute of Physics annual congress, which met in Brighton, said this had been neglected by policy-makers. This meant that decision-making and finances were difficult and that projects took so long that facilities were not cutting-edge once they had been completed.

Speakers referred to the row over the government's intervention in the Diamond synchrotron facility and the subsequent problems faced by the snubbed Daresbury laboratory in Cheshire.

Peter Tindemans from the council of the European Spallation Source Project, who chaired the debate, said a Europe-wide research council was the only option if European science was to be successful in future. He said that each Europe-wide project was being handled individually, despite huge budgets.

Representatives at the meeting said the United Kingdom's research councils were too fragmented. Some felt that the new council of research council heads, RCUK, was not the right body to champion the needs of the science community. There were calls for independent national academies of science to manage the process.

The congress looked at the responses to last year's IoP inquiry into undergraduate physics. It found high demand for physics graduates but low take-up of places.

The report called for a new physics degree with less mathematics and a review of the funding of university physics departments.

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