Prospect calls on physics head to face his staff


Prospect calls on physics head to face his staff

Prospect, the union which represents scientists and engineers in the Science and Technology Facilities Council, has called on STFC chief executive Professor Keith Mason to explain his vision for the future of UK physics and astronomy to his staff.

The call follows a damning report on the science budget allocations by the House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills select committee, highlighting how world-renowned science facilities in the UK face an uncertain future because the government’s science budget left a £80m hole in STFC’s funding.

The union endorsed the committee’s finding that STFC’s problems have their roots in the size of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review settlement and the legacy of bringing CCLRC and PPARC together.

Prospect National Secretary Tony Bell said: "Our members employed by the STFC are angry and confused that Professor Mason continues to practise smoke and mirrors trickery over their futures and has failed to explain any of decisions behind his plan for the council as a whole.

"Because of this continuing lack of transparency it is more important than ever that further cuts are put on hold until the Wakeham review of UK physics reports in September."

In response to the committee’s call for an individual to have oversight for national UK research facilities, Prospect advocates overall responsibility for UK public sector science should be put under the remit of the newly appointed Director General of Research Councils.

This, Bell said, may put an end to the mixed messages from the government that have also created instability. "The government's message is confused about whether it has a regional policy for science, and specifically whether it should influence or dictate where STFC should spend its money, be it on the Daresbury Laboratory or elsewhere.

"For example, its announcement in April of an addition £25m in funding for Daresbury combined with a call for staff to generate new business to fill the campus is more suited to a retail park than a science park.

"It is scientific capacity at the site that is the magnet for its future development, not relatively small cash handouts. Today skilled staff are walking out the door while uncertainty surrounds their careers."