Further to my earlier post, I've just received an electronic bulletin from the British Astronomical Association and, given that it's got lots of extra handy pointers, I'll reproduce it here (I'm hoping that it's okay to do so — given the nature of the issue I can't imagine that it would be a problem):
Dear BAA Member,
Astronomy is a subject close to my heart and to yours no doubt. You may therefore be alarmed to hear that its future here in the UK is under threat owing to recent announcements by the government. In particular, there have been dramatic developments within the Science and Technology Facilities Council or STFC: the research council that funds astronomy research in the UK. What seems to have happened is a fundamental shift in what the Council and the government see as research priorities, with severe cuts planned in research areas such as Astronomy and Particle Physics.
These cuts will lead to the closure of / withdrawal from a large number of major telescope facilities. In the area of ground-based astronomy, withdrawal from the Isaac Newton Telescope Group on La Palma, and from Gemini South are pretty much decided, but Gemini North, UKIRT, and the Liverpool Telescope in Hawaii are also under threat (we have already pulled out of the Anglo-Australian Telescope). This will be accompanied by cuts in research grants to universities which use these facilities. Likewise, Solar Physics and Space Astronomy will be hit. In short, astronomy research in the UK, currently amongst the best in the world, will really suffer.
All of this came with little warning, and with little consultation with the research community, and at a time when the government is concerned about the number of students taking up science topics in schools and at universities.
PLEASE HELP. A petition has been set up at:
which states, "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to reverse the decision to cut vital UK contributions to Particle Physics and Astronomy."
If you wish to offer your support, and have not done so already, you may add your name to this fast-growing petition by going to the above web address and following the directions on signing the petition.
In my view, this is the most serious threat to UK Astronomy in decades and so any help you can offer will be greatly appreciated.
N.B. Background information is available at various websites including:
* STFC's decision to withdraw from Gemini
* STFC's delivery plan 2008/9-2011/12 (see p.6 for the plans in Astronomy)
* A BBC article on the STFC funding crisis.
* RAS 'dismay' at deep cuts in UK Astronomy research.
* UK pulls out of key physics and astronomy projects (New Scientist).
* Physics and astronomy research face "catastrophic" cuts (Nature).
* Science council struggles with cuts (Guardian Education).
* Listen to Radio 4's Today program with James Naughtie broadcast on December 14.
* Times Higher Educational Supplement.