Memorandum from the Particle Physics and
Astronomy Research Council (PPARC)
1. This memorandum provides some observations
from PPARC's perspective.
2. The overall picture for UK particle physics
and astronomy is one of strength, vibrancy and growth.
3. As measured by citations the UK is a
clear second to the USA in astronomy and is one of the top three
behind the USA in particle physics. UK groups are world-leading
in a number of specific highly competitive areas, for example,
dark matter, gravitational waves, cosmic microwave background
radiation, neutrino physics and theoretical modelling.
4. The PPARC community in academia is growing.
For example there was a 40% increase in permanent academic staff
in astronomy groups from 1995-2002 and this trend is continuing
with the formation of new research groups. This growth has been
driven primarily by the proven ability of PPARC Astronomy faculty
to attract undergraduates.
5. Over 90% of PPARC researchers work in
5/5* physics departments. Competing internationally, often in
large scale collaborations, requires departments to have a sufficient
critical mass of high quality researchers. PPARC believes that
the RAE is a powerful driver towards research excellence. The
problem is that the current financial methodology places too much
emphasis on rewarding historical achievement with little possibility
of upward movement.
6. With its strong requirement for long
term commitment to build its large facilities PPARC has and will
collaborate with University management in growing capability in
specific areas, and in enabling new groups to be created with
the necessary critical mass. Examples of recent joint investment,
in some cases supplemented by funding from RDAs and private endowment,
(a) Glasgow UniversityGravitational
(b) Durham UniversityInstitute for
Particle Physics Phenomenology
(c) Liverpool, Manchester, LancasterCockcroft
Institute for Accelerator Science
(d) OxfordAdams Institute for Accelerator
(e) EdinburghParallel Computer Centre
(f) WarwickNew Experiment Particle
7. PPARC has increased the volume of studentships
by 30% since 1995 and plans a further increase of 50% by 2007/08.
Demand for studentships is running at over three times the number
available. The take-up and quality has remained consistently high
: an average of 98% take-up in the last nine years and over 60%
of students who take up awards have first class degrees.
8. In summary
the long-term nature of the investment
required to enable PPARC's community to participate in the design,
construction and exploitation of internationally competitive state-of-the-art
facilities provides Universities with a framework within which
to plan strategically;
astronomy and particle physics are
successful in attracting students into the physical sciences.
Given their skills and the fact that about 50% do not stay in
PPARC-funded research they could provide a growing pool of skilled
expertise for both other disciplines and the private sector.