Feeds

Government set to 'destroy' UK radio astronomy

STFC proposes chop for e-Merlin programme

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The Government’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is proposing to axe the annual £2.5m public funding for "e-Merlin" - an upgrade to the Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network between the UK's seven radio telescopes, the Times reports.

The proposal is part of a controversial plan to plug an £80m shortfall in STFC's budget. Jodrell Bank would also face closure as an observatory, while the close to £8m already spent on e-Merlin would be flushed down the toilet. According to scientists, the decision will "destroy Britain's leading role in radio astronomy".

Jodrell Bank's director, Phil Diamond, described the loss of e-Merlin as "catastrophic". He said: "It will essentially mean the STFC are closing down a field of astronomy. A lot of the scientific community would be outraged."

Simon Garrington, head of the Merlin project, added: "It would be an enormous blow if it came to pass. It would mean a complete withdrawal from observational radio astronomy in the UK. Merlin is the UK's national radio astronomy facility. It's unique."

The STFC revealed its proposed cuts this week at a public meeting, and described Merlin as "low priority". University of Leeds astronomer Dr Melville Hoare apparently stood up to protest the outrage, and yesterday thundered: "The decision should certainly be reversed. The £8m that's been spent will go to waste. That's government money, taxpayers' money. It is galling and so ridiculous."

The loss of Merlin will certainly be serious for UK radio astronomy. Jodrell Bank was last year announced as the headquarters for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a radio telescope network to be built in Australia or South Africa by 2020. If the facility closes, "Britain would start to lose the expertise it needed for a central role", as Royal Astronomical Society president Michael Rowan-Robinson put it.

The STFC's cost-cutting massacre will not go unopposed. Amid mounting dismay at its financial shoeing of various areas of UK scientific research, the Tories have gained the support of 16 MPs, Labour included, for "an early day motion condemning the impact of the cuts".

David Willetts, the Shadow Innovation Secretary, yesterday decried: "The Government has failed to appreciate the damage that is being done to the science community and needs to think again."

Among the STFC's other targets for belt-tightening are Britain's participation in the Gemini telecope programme and particle physics funding. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing and building an open ITOA architecture
Learn about a new IT data taxonomy defined by the four data sources of IT visibility: wire, machine, agent, and synthetic data sets.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.