Deep cuts have been announced in funding for astronomy and physics research as the Science and Technology Facilities Council faces up to a major budget deficit.
Departments across the UK will be affected as the council attempts to plug a £40 million hole in its current budget and put itself on a more sustainable footing for the future.
Physicists and astronomers should expect a 25 per cent cut in studentships and fellowships and a 10 per cent cut in grants from next year.
The measures announced on 16 December also include the UK’s “managed withdrawal” from a wide range of internationally important projects.
But the effects of the funding crisis will be felt by other researchers too, after other research councils agreed a last-minute bailout package for the STFC worth £14 million.
The STFC, which will receive the money in 2010-11, also intends to make £11 million in internal savings.
The list of 24 projects that the STFC will withdraw from, marking a £115 million reduction over five years, cover astronomy, particle physics, nuclear physics and space projects.
Flagship projects include:
* The ALICE collaboration, which is working to exploit the benefits of the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Geneva
* The Cassini Huygens mission studying Saturn – a joint mission between the European Space Agency and Nasa
The UK will also withdraw from facilities, ending its participation in the European X-Ray Laser Project based in Hamburg and the twin Gemini telescopes, which it plans to exit in 2012.
Plans to build a fourth-generation light source – a potentially revolutionary facility to study molecules and chemical reactions – have also been shelved.
The new five-year, £2.4 billion investment programme outlined is based on a “flat-cash” projection for the next Comprehensive Spending Review period. It does not factor in the announcement in the pre-Budget report last week that the education and science budgets are to be cut by £600 million in 2011-13.
Michael Sterling, chairman of the STFC, said: “The council of the STFC has approved an affordable, robust and sustainable programme. This has involved tough choices affecting the entire programme. This is a major reorganisation of our programme to focus on the top priority items making use of the international subscriptions that, while costly, allow UK scientists critically important access to world-class facilities.”
The plans are based on recommendations from scientists on the STFC’s science board.
Cuts to space projects will save £42 million, and cuts to astronomy projects will save £39 million. Particle physics projects will be cut by £32 million and nuclear physics projects by £12 million.