CEO of LFC announced
The President of the RAS, Professor Rowan-Robinson, has welcomed the appointments of Professor Keith Mason as Chief Executive designate of the Large Facilities Council and Professor John Wood as its Director, International Relations, designate. 'These appointments should ensure an orderly transition to the new arrangements. The RAS looks forward to working with both of them in the design and subsequent operation of the new Council', he said.
Professor Mason is presently the Chief Executive of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), a post he has held since 1 August 2005. Prior to that he was Head of UCL's Department of Space and Climate Physics and Director, Mullard Space Science Laboratory. He has been appointed as Chief Executive designate after an internal competition. The period of his fixed term appointment as Chief Executive will be finalised after approval of its new Royal Charter.
Professor Wood is presently the Chief Executive of the Council of the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC), a post he has held since 1 April 2001. Prior to joining CCLRC he was Dean of Engineering at the University of Nottingham. He is chair of the European Strategy Forum for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) having previously been the ministerial nominated delegate. He will be responsible for exploring opportunities for major collaboration between the LRC and new global partners in international science, particularly in Asia and South America; developing the LRC's relations with the European Commission and other European science policy organisation such as the European Science Foundation; and advising on how the LFC (and other Research Councils) can better influence European science policy.
The DTI announced the creation of the Large Facilities Council on 25 July 2006 (see DTI press notice at http://www.gnn.gov.uk/environment/dti) The Council will bring together the work of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), the Council of the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) and the nuclear physics work of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It will have a budget of some £530 million pa and employ over 2000 staff. The new Council is planned to be created using powers in the Science and Technology Act 1965 which require an affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament approving a draft order for a new research council and approval by Her Majesty the Queen of an Order in Council declaring a body to be a Research Council. All staff, assets and liabilities of PPARC and CCLRC will be transferred to the new Council under the terms of a separate Order under the same Act. The new Council will be under the sponsorship of the Office of Science and Innovation in the Department of Trade and Industry which will provide most of its funding.
The position of the RAS, which the President has advanced in a series of meetings with senior government officials, is that the Large Facilities Council should be carefully designed from scratch and not simply be an extension of CCLRC. In particular it should be a Research Council ( which should be reflected in its name), guided by experienced university researchers and operate with the following principles:
· There should be guaranteed support for long-term programmes, ie rolling grants (or an equivalent), both for development and exploitation
· There needs to be a clearly defined and well-supported grants line that is insulated from the vagaries of exchange rates and over-runs on international projects
· Funding should be available for fundamental research and small facilities that are not necessarily linked to large facilities
· There needs to be ‘joined up thinking’ between facilities and exploitation
· The principle of peer review for selection of new facilities and their instrumentation, for grants and for allocation of resources like telescope time should be maintained
· There must be a rational, objective mechanism for the allocation and support of studentships
· Funding processes must reflect the increasing cross-disciplinary nature of science research
· The principle of curiosity-driven research needs to be maintained as central to the PPARC research areas
· At present there is a range of space science and theory groups where innovation and interactions with the international community are highly effective. This vibrant activity needs to continue to be nourished for the UK’s superb international reputation in space science and in theory to continue
· The interface with science supported by NERC needs to be carefully defined, and the new Council should have strong links with both NERC and EPSRC