Submission from Professor Swapan Chattopadhyay,
Inaugural Director, Cockcroft Institute of Accelerator Science
FEBRUARY 27, 2008
I would like to put on record the following
(i) Everything you hear from me are observations
and comments from the perspective of a newly inducted scientist/scientific
leader in the UK, barely ten months on the job, after a successful
and matured career spanning 33 years working in various leadership
and executive capacities with the Department of Energy-supported
major US national labs (e.g. Lawrence Berkeley and Thomas Jefferson
National Labs) and at top-rank US universities (e.g. University
of California at Berkeley and most recently Harvard U.).
(ii) When I speak of the Cockcroft Institute,
I am using it as an "iconic" symbol for what appears
to the rest of the world as the rising UK pre-eminence for accelerator
science and technology, representing not only the Cockcroft Institute
but also our sister institutions elsewhere such as the John Adams
Institute at Oxford University and Royal Holloway as well as accelerator
scientists and particle physicists at Imperial college and universities
1. On the issue of "Due Process"
in communication, consultation, transparency and peer review:
HM Government vs. STFC.
There appears to be a fundamental inconsistency
between HIM Govt. /DIUS and STFC/RCUK/DIUS which brings into question
STFC's comprehension of its own business. I do not believe that
the STFC Delivery Plan in its current form and its consequenceswere
intended by design by the HIM Government. I believe that the "Haldane
Principle" of allowing the Research Councils determine their
own priorities should hold unless there are reasons to question
the integrity of the "due process" employed by the Research
Councils in its decision making which might point to abuse of
such privilege. I believe that it is this lack of demonstrable
implementation of the "due process" in communication,
consultation, transparency, and peer review that is under question
at the moment, leading to the total lack of confidence in STFC's
management capacity and competence. I was glad however to note
the DG RCUK, Sir Keith O'Nions, state at the end of the evidence
session on Feb. 21, 2008, " . . . and the STFC CEO is quickly
getting a good grip of the situation as evidenced by the recent
re-structuring of STFC, etc . . . .", an admission that the
necessary grip and understanding of the business needs were probably
missing, at the formation of STFC, from its CEO and his management
team. Note that the community got a hint of the impending Delivery
Plan only in November, 2007, without any prior engagement.
2. On the question of "Much Ado about
Nothing!"Crisis or not?
I want the committee to know that the community
is simply "re-acting" to the "actions" by
"actors", which is STFC. Sir Keith's surprise at the
out-of-proportion response to a "claimed" modest reduction
in Physics support and the damage it has done to the agency's
reputation, and his admission of "hearing some reasonable
and sensible voices amongst all the shrill . . . " as he
put it, is a mere acknowledgement and reflection of the lack of
appreciation on STFC's part of the intricate global network of
the physics whose organic understanding must be fundamental to
the STFC management. The shrill voices came from no others than
IoP, Royal Society, RAS, VC's of the Russell Group of Universities,
RAS, the international community...etc.
Despite the Minister of Science, Ian Pearson's
statement of "No Crisis", no real short-fall of £80
million and no reduction in support for the universities, and
despite Sir Keith O'Nions statement, "..,this is a problem
that other nations would rather have than a crisis", STFC
has, through Town Meetings and All-hands Meetings at RAL and DL,
admitted to the situation calling it a "crisis" and
admitted to an £80 million short-fall. Despite assurances
of commitment to the science and staff at Daresbury and Rutherford
sites, universities, including Cockcroft Institute, John Adams
Institute and elsewhere, we are seriously looking into employment
rules, regulations and policies about the actual redundancies
and "terminations to contract" to be implemented on
a scale of a few hundreds. This is not a potential or exaggerated
situation, but is happening in real time.
Is it a CRISIS? No ILC, no GEMINI, 25% reduction
in Particle Physics and Astronomy Grants, possible claw-back on
existing grants, planning for 100's of staff redundancies, call
it by whatever name one wants, but STFC management made it look
like we cannot do anything about it to recover from this grave
If STFC management is correct, then they are
contradicting Sir Keith and Ian Pearson. If they are wrong, then
they did bring about the damage themselves.
3. On the issue of Peer Review/Consultation
before PPAN and PALS considerations
It is my observation that the STFC decisions
were not based upon intelligence-based, informed "reviews".
See my letter to PM Gordon Brown (Annex 1). Sir Keith O'Nions
in his evidence to the committee on February 21, 2008 said: "From
where I sit, it appears that proper peer reviews have taken place,
based on which PPAN, PALS, etc. make their highest recommendations
to the DG, RCUK. But probably there is reason to look into it
further the rest of the question, of course, should be directed
at STFC itself".
In this regard, one should look critically at the
review process or the lack thereof, at levels below the PPAN and
PALS. There have been three so-called programmatic peer reviews
in STFC that I have personally witnessed: Future Light Sources
Review, Particle Physics Review and Accelerator Science R&D
Review. It has been my experience in the past three plus decades
on all such reviews that:
(i) Reviewed community knows that the review
is taking place;
(b) There is inclusive discussion and feedback
on the selection of the members of the review committee team;
(c) There are opportunities given to the
community to comment upon an initial "draft" of any
review for courtesy, ensuring factual accuracy and eliminating
technical or parochial biases.
In all of the above STFC reviews, there were
no consultations with the community, for the sake of full ownership,
about the nature and selection of the reviewers and no sharing
of the resulting deliberations before the review recommendations
were declared final. In many cases there were fundamental scientific
conflicts between the reviewers and the reviewed, thus compromising
the integrity of the review. The qualifications and stature of
the reviewers often did not match the qualification and stature
of the reviewed, with visible gaps in expertise. These were pointed
out at least in connection with two reviews: the Light Source
Review (see my letter to the review organisers in STFC dated 30
April, 2007 with regards to the Selection of Review Panel members
exposing gaps in expertise critical to the review (Annex 2)) and
the accelerator science and technology review body, ASTAB, on
which we have forced a dialogue with the director of strategy
more recently. Conclusion: all this surely will lead to "flawed"
4. On the issue of "redundancies",
diminished capacity and erosion of national core competency in
Unilateral STFC redundancies, and
decision on grants without consultancy with the community and
global partners ahead of time, erode severely the unique skills
base as a resource to the entire nation.
No Technical "core competency"
leads to no skills, no innovation, no "knowledge exchange"
(a DIUS Deliverable),
Accelerator science and technology
is a resource to the entire nation. The redundancies", if
needed, must be aimed at preserving national "core competencies"
and be system-wide in consultation with all stakeholders. The
Universities and local economic sectors maintain strong support
for accelerator science in their respective territories of education,
research and industrial development. STFC, supposed to bring operational
scientific facilities and technical experts as labour via grants,
is an unstable stakeholder. ASTeC is already losing skills base
of the very best via volunteers!
Nation's ability to attract top global recruitment
compromised by the Delivery Plan.
5. On the issue of Communication and Management:
Judging by the way the current situation developed,
the lateness in staff communication of the impending crisis, the
secrecy behind any communication efforts, decisions taken without
intelligent communication to the community and eventually the
manner of communication to staff leave us with the following conclusions:
(i) The management of the newly merged STFC
(CCLRC+PPARC), which still does not exist as an integrated organisation
but as a set of independent units, had either an inadequate understanding
of its Business needs or a pre-determined set of priorities to
start with, not shared with the community,'
(ii) STFC management did not believe in communication
with its staff and community in developing, in partnership, an
appropriate and credible plan in response to the challenge faced
by the CSR allocations. Decisions were taken without appropriate
inclusiveness, peer review and consultation within UK and abroad;
severe consequences of the DP for the nation are highly incommensurate
with the alleged funding shortfall;
(iii) The STFC management has lost the trust
of the community in having the wisdom in (and respect for) the
field they serve and in their intellectual and managerial capacity
to administer the portfolio under their remit,'
(iv) All this points to severe mismanagement
of science at the highest levels of STFC and possibly DIUS. The
Select Committee is requested to scrutinise the STFC and DIUS
"competency" at the highest levels of its management
in managing its scientific portfolio.
Major Concern for Cockcroft Institute at DSIC
Is the DIUS commitment to make Daresbury a Science
and Innovation Campus viable in the light of inconsistency with
the STFC vision of Daresbury site?
We fear the answer is "NO"Lack
of support of the STFC leadership for scientific "flagship"
facilities on the DL campus by design coupled with the planned
reduction-in-force following the Delivery Plan, will render such
a plan lacking credibility!! The Cockcroft Institute, by itself,
without a thriving Daresbury Laboratory, will have no reason to
be on site and will retreat to the universities, failing the lofty
Ambivalent messages on future support for ERLP/ALICE,
a flag-ship accelerator test facility not yet properly exploited
following its £1 SM investment This is crucial resource for
future accelerator science and technology, both to STFC and the