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Physicists go nuclear with online protest at funding cuts

Boffins highlight the gravity of the situation

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UK physics boffins have taken intensified their fight against an £80m hole in annual funding with an online campaign for Gordon Brown to put his hand in his pocket.

A Downing Street petition entitled "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to reverse the decision to cut vital UK contributions to Particle Physics and Astronomy," has garnered more than 15,000 signatures so far. There's a related Facebook campaign group here.

The funding cut is forcing post graduate positions to be slashed across the academic community, is likely to cost hundreds of physics jobs, and is already limiting British involvement in international astronomy and particle physics. Some 25 per cent of university physics funding is being stopped.

In the 2007 science spending round, the government promised an increase in funding, but left the real-terms £80m shortfall as ambitious infrastructure projects ramp up. The Science and Technology Funding Council (STFC) announced the boffin bloodbath as the costs of running its Big Science facilities, like the diamond synchotron, its enormous magnetic doughnut.

It's led to the UK's embarrassing withdrawal from the international Gemini telescope project because STFC can't pay its subs. This from a government that will bend your ear at any opportunity about how important science and engineering are to the future of the "knowledge economy".

We're yet to hear of a Downing Street petition that has elicited anything more than soothing words from Number 10, or a Facebook campaign success that wasn't an a cheap and easy PR win for its target, but best of luck to them. ®

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