Prospect slams threat to elite research facility


Prospect slams threat to elite research facility

On behalf of staff at Britain’s premier agricultural engineering research facility, Prospect has described plans to withdraw public funding from the Silsoe Research Institute (SRI) in 2006 as a disaster for staff, the UK science base and the future prosperity of the country.

If the proposals put forward by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are implemented, the unique engineering research facilities at Silsoe, near Bedford, would close with the loss of over two thirds of the 200-strong workforce, the union has warned.

Describing the plans as "ill thought out” and “damaging to UK science”, Nigel Titchen, president of Prospect’s science, engineering and technology group, said:

“If these proposals are enacted it will result in internationally recognised research being axed and the fragmentation of interdisciplinary research teams with the loss of many fine scientists."

Prospect presented its own plan for the future of SRI at a recent meeting with the BBSRC which would retain and expand the existing research effort on the site, while developing closer links with other BBSRC institutes.

The union’s proposals would see the site managed as a resource for all the UK research councils and provide a vibrant future for SRI while still protecting nationally important facilities and scientific skills.

“We believe that this would represent a more cost effective solution than destroying unique facilities at Silsoe and rebuilding elsewhere at great public expense, “ said Titchen. "We feel BBSRC has a public duty to safeguard facilities that underpin the research base. If these proposals are enacted it would be nothing short of scientific vandalism.”

Prospect plans to highlight the shortcomings of the BBSRC proposals and promote its viable alternative throughout the forthcoming two month consultation period.