Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 28

Submission from Dr Brian WJ McNeil, Department of Physics, SUPA, University of Strathclyde

  I write to express my deep concern at the damage the £80 million shortfall in STFC funding will cause to UK science and economic competitiveness.

  There has been little or no consultation within the scientific community on how to deal with these cuts and STFC senior management appear to have made hasty decisions that will adversely affect science strategy in the long-term. While there appears to be a positive bias towards space science, other economically important areas of science research look increasingly likely to suffer.

  In particular, I am very concerned that research towards building the next generation of light sources will be compromised.

  Currently, sources such as Diamond in Oxfordshire enable determination of the structure of atoms, molecules and biological systems. The next generation of sources, such as the UK's 4GLS project (now abandoned) will be able to follow their motion in time so that we will be able to "see" how such systems function and interact. This would generate great economic benefit from across the whole of science. Other nations (eg USA, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, South Korea) are all investing significantly in this field and will reap the rewards.

  Staff at STFC Daresbury laboratory have been informed that they will probably suffer significant and disproportionate redundancies. These are the highly skilled people who designed the Diamond light source and who have been designing the UK's next generation light source. If redundancies are made on the scales anticipated (leaving only approximately 150 staff at Daresbury) great damage will be done to the UK science base from which it will take at least a generation to recover.

  I strongly urge you not to allow Daresbury labs to be decimated in this way and to take immediate action to remedy the situation at your forthcoming meeting of the Innovation, Universities and Skills Committee.

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