Monday, 25 January 2010

Missing the "subcritical" point

The Ion Report warned that further cuts in STFC's support for nuclear physics could make it "subcritical." According to a report in today's Research Day (needs a subscription) Lord Drayson said that this point was dismissed because international collaborations are independent of each other and "withdrawing from some does not adversely affect the others."

That is missing the point of what the Ion report said. Without the critical mass in size of UK community, we are not able to provide the broad student training, to run summer schools, the national conference, the vibrant MSc and specialist undergraduate programmes or the specialist training and advice to industry, to law, to journalists and the media. Without adequate funding, people are lost, and along with them the bright PhDs who go off to work in nuclear engineering and industry. Yes, the projects STFC have pulled out of will largely continue, albeit without some UK expertise, but the survival of the nuclear physics community in the UK, which is small by international standards, but packs quite a punch, risks falling apart, and with it, all the added value that it brings to our moderately ambitious country.