Feeds

Government set to 'destroy' UK radio astronomy

STFC proposes chop for e-Merlin programme

Remote control for virtualized 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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
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.
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.
Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence
Download Choosing a Cloud Hosting Provider with Confidence to learn more about cloud computing - the new opportunities and new security challenges.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.