Feeds

Government set to 'destroy' UK radio astronomy

STFC proposes chop for e-Merlin programme

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality
Life had just begun, code error means Russia's gone and thrown it all away
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.