PPARC's Science Programme: CEO responds to RAS
Professor Mason explained that he was unable to reply in detail to the questions posed by the RAS, since many of these issues were not finally settled, and different issues had different time-scales for resolution. He confirmed, however, that he looked forward to discussing them at the NAM and MIST/UKSP meetings.
Professor Mason added that the community should not perhaps have been so surprised at the outcome of the 2004 Spending Review; PPARC's plans certainly had factored it in for some time ( see for example the 'Delivery Plan' at http://www.pparc.ac.uk/ap/dphome.asp ).
The stark fact was that the Spending Review had delivered a level cash funding settlement which, given inflation, represented a steady reduction in its value over time.
In discussion, it was agreed that there is always a tension between supporting existing programmes and, which all governments tend to prefer, funding new ones; the current settlement has sharpened this choice.
The RAS Presidents confirmed that,following the NAM and UKSP/MIST meetings, the RAS planned to lead the community in lobbying the Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury, about the impact of proposed cuts. While its campaign will acknowledge government investment in UK science and universities in recent years and the need to review older facilities as new ones come on line, its principal message will be that UK astronomy is world-class and that astronomy attracts young people into studying science - the foundation for the country's continued economic prosperity.
However remaining world-class comes with a price tag; at the very least, core programmes must be protected against inflation.