Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Royal Astronomical Society

  1.  The Royal Astronomical Society is grateful for the opportunity to comment on your inquiry and our response is below. Please let me know if there is any further information you require.

  2.  The Royal Astronomical Society welcomed the creation of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, with a responsibility for supporting basic research in the subjects that come under its aegis. The UK has always played a leading role in Astronomy, and it is important that our internationally competitive position should be maintained. This requires that the science base should be adequately funded, with sufficient resources being made available to support blue-skies research. To remain competitive, UK astronomers must continue to have access to world-class observational facilities, in collaboration with research groups in Europe and the USA. The observational programme must also be backed up by access to high-performance computing facilities, both for handling data and for developing sophisticated theoretical models.

  3.  Astronomy continues to arouse considerable public interest and stimulates young people to choose careers in science. It is particularly important in attracting students to study physics, where there is a national shortage. Those who graduate or obtain PhDs in astronomy have a broad experience in IT, as well as in data-handling and modelling; many of them subsequently move into industry or financial services, where they can contribute directly to creating wealth.

June 2000

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