STFC Funding Crisis : Particle Physics

A statement on the STFC "Invest in the Future" announcement of Dec 2009 and how it impacts particle physics is below.

Having been created with a shortfall of 80M for its scientific programme, STFC has staggered from crisis to crisis with the latest round of proposed cuts being nothing less than disastrous in terms of the shameful waste of a decade's investment in new facilities across STFC science. Some of these are only just turning on, with examples in particle physics including the LHC at CERN and the T2K experiment in Japan. The government must intervene to stop this harmful and avoidable squandering of investment and the strong message it sends to the international science job market to stay away from the UK.

The behaviour of the UK is viewed with disbelief by countries which can now see that the UK is no longer to be trusted as an international partner in major scientific programmes. In several cases, the projects targeted for major cuts or cancellation had elected UK spokespersons whose positions must now look distinctly untenable with a direct loss of UK leadership. The situation for scientists in the UK is made particularly bitter by the knowledge that competitor countries are making investment in science a strategic priority as their economies emerge from recession, while the UK which used to boast of its desire to build a "knowledge economy" cuts science again and again (see the Pre-Budget Report).

This comes after nearly a decade of trying to achieve parity in R&D spending with the UK's G7 competitors, a goal it now seems the government is preparing to abandon. The funding squeeze within STFC is particularly acute because it failed to secure an adequate settlement when it was formed from the merger of PPARC and CCLRC and has under-performed in attracting funding ever since due to its well documented failures of leadership. We particularly regret the 25% cut on PhD positions and Fellowships which represents a huge reduction in the training of highly talented young people who could have so much to offer the UK economy.

On the cancellation of the New Light Source, participation in the X-ray Free Electron Laser in DESY and the preparations for a Neutrino Factory, Professor Ken Peach writes: "These projects address longer-term science opportunities that would keep the UK at the forefront of science, including the ambition to host large-scale international projects in the UK and to attract the associated inward investment and support for UK industry; these cuts show that STFC cannot be trusted with stewardship of the UK's science base."

On the many fruitful R&D programmes which have been curtailed, Professor Phil Allport says: "Development of new technologies for long-term applications at new facilities have been particularly hard hit, with more job losses for leading technologists and lost opportunities in both innovation, training and potential commercial exploitation."

Professor Mark Lancaster of UCL comments: "A lost generation of students will be created who are denied the opportunity to do a PhD and cutting-edge science"

And as Professor Brian Foster points out: "It is only 10 months ago that Gordon Brown delivered the Romanes lecture at Oxford and said: "Some say that now is not the time to invest, but the bottom line is that the downturn is no time to slow down our investment in science but to build more vigorously for the future." These cuts give the lie to those fine words. This is a sad day for British science: the Prime Minister should hang his head in shame."

In summary, these latest cuts mean that even more investment in instruments and experiments is wasted, and hopes of a generation of the young scientists and graduate students who would have worked on them have been dashed. As STFC lurches from funding crisis to funding crisis, there is surely now a very strong case for an independent inquiry into the funding and management of STFC and we welcome today's statement by Lord Drayson acknowledging the major structural problems with STFC and offering to work with the wider research community to find a better solution to managing international science projects, large scientific facilities and university research grants.

Professor Ken Peach is Director of John Adams Institute for Accelerator Science and Co-Director of the Particle Therapy Cancer Research Institute, University of Oxford
Professor Phil Allport is Head of Particle Physics and Director of the Liverpool Semiconductor Detector Centre, University of Liverpool
Professor Mark Lancaster is Head of Particle Physics at UCL and leads the UK's team on the CDF Experiment at the Tevatron Collider in Illinois, USA
Professor Brian Foster is Head of Particle Physics at the University of Oxford

Dec 16 2009.

This page is intended as a conduit of information about the STFC funding deficit to the particle physics community. It includes briefing material that can be used in lobbying, presentations/notes from the various community and town meetings, letters written to MPs, press releases, press coverage and links to other parallel campaigns.

If you have anything you'd like to be included on this page - additional press, lobbying material etc then please send it to (markl AT Some of the material is password protected - please email markl AT for the username & password.

Latest News

Press Coverage - most recent first

Material Released under FOI

Requests have been made to both DIUS and STFC by various members of the particle physics and astronomy communties to release documents related to the CSR submission, STFC's space infrastructure plans, the formulation of the priorities in the delivery plan and the programmatic review.

Briefing Material


Presentations & Notes from Nov 23rd Meeting @ UCL

Dec 13th STFC Town Meeting

Dec 14th Cern Council Meeting

Letters / Meetings With MPs & VCs

Other Campaigns / Groups

Press Releases

The Wakeham Review of Physics

IUS Select Committee Meetings

Two edvidence sessions have taken place and a third will take place on Feb 27. First Session Heard evidence from IoP,RAS,Prospect, RCUK & STFC on Jan-21.
The proceedings are viewable
here and the transcript is here .
The IoP reaction to the Jan-21 select committee is here
Statements and evidence submitted:

The PP community provided various documents to brief MPs on and outside the SC:

Second Session
Was preceeded by visits to RAL, ATC and DL. A report of the RAL visit is here . It took place on Feb-20 and heard evidence from Keith O'Nions and Ian Pearson. Proceedings can be streamed from Parliament TV ; or downloaded as a scrollable MP3 from here
The transcript is here

Third Session
Took place on Wed Feb 27 at 9:30. Evidence was heard from Swapan Chattopadhyay, Richard Holdaway, Keith Mason and Peter Warry. The audio proceedings can be streamed from Parliament TV ; or downloaded as a scrollable MP3 from here
The transcript is here .

US Funding

Three months into the US financial year the FY08 budget was made public on Dec-18. The overall DOE science budget is up only 2.4%. The NSF increase is also only 2.5% compared to Presidential/Senate/House requests for a 10% increase. The HEP allocation of $696M is $90M less than the President's FY08 budget request of $782M and almost $60M below the actual FY07 allocation ($752M). The allocation made zero provision for NOVA against a planned budget of $30M. The ILC(+SCRF) was allocated only $15M(+$5M) from a request of $60M(+$20M). Additionally no provision was made for the US to make its $120M contribution to ITER. The ILC implications are discussed by Barry Barish and the impact on FNAL is discussed here which also contains a link to Pier Oddone's FNAL address and daily udpdates including a statement of support from Barack Obama .

A letter in support of US HEP has been written and signed by group leaders from the UK and sent to Secretary of State Bodman. We received many letters of support from the US in response to the STFC delivery plan announcement. Todd Huffman has also sent a second letter signed by UK FNAL users. The DOE has announced the premature termination of the SLAC B-factory. See also the statement from SLAC
Ray Orbach comments on the cuts here

Other material

Last Updated : 17 Dec 2009 at 10:00:08