Threat to hard-up science

February 15, 2002

A budget crisis already threatening severe cutbacks for UK particle physicists is set to hit prestige astronomy projects.

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council's problems mean that UK involvement in new missions and experiments planned by the European Space Agency and the European Southern Observatory may be reduced.

Astronomers face the prospect of being unable to take full advantage of the projected £110 million in annual subscriptions to the ESA and the ESO.

Space science is under particular pressure as the ground-based astronomy programme has already borne the brunt of joining ESO, with £5 million of annual savings including the loss of 42 full-time posts. Particle physicists will have to find £12 million of savings over the next three years.

There is no comparable budget deficit in astronomy. But available funds will fall far short of what the community wants.

The PPARC's financial problems go back to the 2000 government spending review, which did not raise core funding in line with inflation.

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