Cardiff inSPIREs Willetts

The Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts’ important speech today at the Royal Institution in London has already attracted a considerable amount of comment and reaction. I haven’t really got time to comment on it in detail, but in between the expected warning of tough times ahead, it does contain a great deal of extremely interesting and thoughtful material, which I recommend you read if you’re interested in science policy.

Of particular interest to us here in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University is that we get a specific mention for the wonderful work done by the Astronomical Instrumentation Group on the development of the SPIRE instrument on the Herschel Space Observatory.  Everyone’s chuffed about it, and delighted that the Minister chose to highlight this particular example of excellence.

In my speech at Birmingham University in May, I spoke of links between the academic and the vocational, the conceptual and the physical. We are not always good at this – we have world-class particle physicists at the Large Hadron Collider but sadly not many British engineers helped to build it. But there are other areas where these links between British science and technology are stronger. We not only have distinguished astronomers, but it was scientists and engineers at Cardiff University who produced the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver for Herschel and Planck. This combination of scientific research and technological advance creates extraordinary dynamism, both intellectual and commercial. I see it as one of my tasks to strengthen these links.

OK, so I know SPIRE wasn’t for “Herschel and Planck” but the AIG was involved with instruments for both these missions so the point is well made anyway.

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4 Responses to “Cardiff inSPIREs Willetts”

  1. Does strengthening mean more money for science?

  2. telescoper Says:

    I doubt if it means more money, but it might mean science gets cut less then some other things and the money in the science budget could be distributed differently.

  3. Would be nice if he recognised that SPIRE and HFI had widespread involvement across the UK astronomy community…

  4. telescoper Says:

    True, led by Cardiff but involving 5 other UK institutions (as well as 12 international ones…)

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