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Lobby your MP about the STFC budget cuts

The UK astronomy community is deeply concerned about the impact of the £120 million of cuts announced by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Information on how to help our campaign on this follows...


UK astronomy faces a difficult future following the settlement for the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) set out in the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). The settlement is insufficient to cover the costs of current research programmes and means that STFC is now set to implement £120 million of spending cuts.

Following pressure from the RAS, IoP, academics and politicians, the Government has agreed to undertake an independent review of the health of physics. The House of Commons Select Committee on Innovation, Universities and Skills will also consider the impact of the cuts package in mid-January and will hear evidence from RAS President Professor Michael Rowan-Robinson.

Further details can be found elsewhere on this site (for example our most recent press statement or on the web site maintained by Professor Crowther at
http://pacrowther.staff.shef.ac.uk/stfc.html ) and the full STFC delivery plan can be read at http://www.stfc.ac.uk

If you are concerned about the impact of the cuts, one simple step you can take is to sign the online petition at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Physics-Funding/ This closes on 18 February and already has more than 9000 signatories.

You can also write to your local MP - you can find their name via http://writetothem.com and http://www.theyworkforyou.com

Personal rather than standard letters tend to be most effective. For example, if you work in an institution affected by the cuts it is important to cite this – you might also consider inviting your MP to tour your facility.

A letter to your MP could include some or all of the following points:

- The cuts were a great shock to the astronomy and physics community and were announced after almost no consultation.
- The UK is a world leader in many of the research programmes under threat – for example solar-terrestrial physics, high-energy gamma-ray astronomy research, the instrument-building programmes at the Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh and the Gemini and UK InfraRed Telescopes in Hawaii and Chile.
- The announcement by John Denham, Secretary of State at the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills of an independent review into the health of physics is welcome.
- Many university physics departments are underpinned by strong astronomy research groups. The cuts will severely damage their output and may even cause some to close altogether.
- Future STFC research grants will be cut by 25%, depriving many promising physics students of the opportunity to pursue a postgraduate and academic career in the UK.

The website www.saveastronomy.co.uk has more details of the impact of the cuts on specific research areas and includes an example letter to an Edinburgh MP.