In announcing the science budget allocations for 2008/09- 2010/11, Secretary of State John Denham confirmed that Professor Wakeham has been asked to undertake a review of physics since 'it is important that the government is confident that the combined decisions of the research councils properly underpin the health of key disciplines'.
Speaking on BBC radio, Science Minister Ian Pearson said he will wait for the results of the review before deciding what action to take over the £80 million funding shortfall being faced by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, which is responsible for the funding of major research projects as well as physics teaching departments. Mr Pearson added that he was "concerned" about the shortfall."We have concerns about the STFC's budgetary proposals, we've been discussing that with them over the last few days and weeks and there clearly are problems".When pressed if the Government would help the STFC with its shortfall, Mr Pearson replied: "We will have to see what the review says but certainly the health of the different disciplines, physics in particular, is something of concern to us." He added, "Nobody wants to see physics hit hard."
The Delivery Plan unveiled by STFC makes alarming reading for astronomers:
* we will revisit the on-going level of investment in ...experiments for the direct detection of gravitational waves
* we will cease all support for ground-based solar-terrestial facilities
* we will ( review) investment in the operation of UKIRT, MERLIN,Liverpool Telescope, Astro-Grid (and) the Dark Energy Survey
* we will finalise plans for the run-down of our investment in the ING telescopes
* we plan to withdraw from ...the Gemini telescopes
In addition, there is the possibility of research grants being reduced by as much as 25% which will put many physics departments under enormous strain.
The Council of the RAS will discuss the situation at a meeting on December 13