The STFC Delivery Plan

Excuse the very quick and sketchy post on such an important topic, but I’ve got a lot of things to do before the dreaded Christmas lunch.

This morning the allocations of funding for the research councils were announced. The statement accompanying the ensuing Delivery Plan for the Science and Technology Facilities Council can be found here, while the plan itself is here. You’ll probably also want to read Paul Crowther’s analysis here.

Other research councils have also published their plans; you can find the one for EPSRC here.

The headline announcement reads:

After transferring responsibility for space science to the UK Space Agency, STFC’s overall baseline allocation for 2011-12 for resource funding (previously termed “near-cash”) is £377.5m rising to an allocation of £381.14m in 2014-15. This excludes administration which will be separately allocated. Our capital baseline allocation for 2011-12 is £91m, with an indicative allocation for the remainder of the spending review period reducing to £68m in 2014-15.

So not at all bad news for resource funding, but the implications of the capital cut are unclear (at least to me).

I haven’t had time to read the entire document, but did have a quick look at the crucial Appendix D which shows how each discipline is expected to fare:

  • Particle Physics expenditure will rise from £133M to £148M over 4 years
  • Astronomy expenditure will fall from £77M to £69M over the same period
  • Expenditure on Synchtron facilities (e.g. Diamond Light Source) will increase from £42M to £56M.

Within an approximately flat-cash settlement, therefore, Astronomy is a clear loser (although much of the cuts in expenditure relate to decisions already made, such as withdrawal from the Gemini Telescopes). Confusingly, much of the increase in Particle Physics expenditure relates to an increase in the CERN subscription, which I thought was supposed to be falling …

As far as I understand it, the plan also maintains grant funding at the current level (although it will move into the new consolidated grant system as quickly as this can be achieved).

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got time for right now, and comments/reactions/corrections/clarifications are very welcome through the box below.


14 Responses to “The STFC Delivery Plan”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Andrew Pontzen. Andrew Pontzen said: RT @telescoper: The STFC Delivery Plan: […]

  2. Peter

    The overall reduction in capital within BIS with respect to CSR 2007 naturally causes a bigger chunk of the (lower) CERN subscriptions to shift across into resource/near-cash. I believe nothing more sinister.


  3. so does that explain the shift from astro (down 10%) to PP (up 10%) – its simply due to having to moving capital to near-cash so it appears in these summary tables?

  4. Richard Wade Says:

    There are two reasons why the astronomy line goes down. The first is that 11/12 is the last year of grants at the higher (pre 2009 prioritisation) level. The PP grants all went down already. The second is the Gemini pull out. Both Astronomy and Particle Physics see increases in their development lines. The only other difference is the CERN increase which is due to predicted a change in the balance between resource and capital.

  5. tricky one.. yes in part i think. Appendix D shows £10M increase in resource for CERN subs from 2011/12 to 2014/15 while Appendix C shows a £20M decrease in capital for (all) intl subs. As Peter notes, the big dip in STFC astro operations budget from 2011/12 to 2012/13 results from decisions taken a year ago after the last prog. review (consequences of top priority for ESO hardware including withdrawal from Gemini, La Palma, Hawaii operations). To muddle things further, 2011/12 allocations don’t join naturally with 2010/11 in part because of shift in astro-related ESA subs (incl Aurora, PLS for other missions) to UKSA.

    • John Womersley Says:

      It’s also important to remember that these partitions into PP, NP and Astronomy are not ringfences. The numbers in the table reflect the funding profile of the portfolio of projects in each area taken from PPAN’s priorities from last year, plus the international subs. There is nothing to stop them from advising us to (say) delay funding for the ATLAS upgrade and extend operations of JCMT and UKIRT instead, in light of evolving science priorities.

  6. It is excellent that international subscriptions have been partly protected from the 40% cuts to capital funding that were originally expected to be applied across the board. Without that protection and recategorising some funding, it would have been impossible to continue to pay both the CERN and ESO subscriptions.

    It’s quite interesting to compare the figures for international subscriptions in Appendix D of the STFC Delivery Plan 2011/12 – 2014/15 with those in the current budget 2010-2011.

    The current budget gives the following for 2010-2011.

    ESO: 10.9 million pounds near cash, £18.3M capital, £29.2M total

    CERN: £63.6M near cash, £32.9M capital, £96.5M total

    The Delivery Plan Appendix D gives the following resource budget for 2011-2012.

    ESO: £11.57M

    CERN: £81.81M

    There is some sign of a significant shift from capital funding for CERN into the resource budget, but not so much of a shift for ESO. The total capital spending for international subscriptions is £46.22M for 2011-2012 (Appendix C), while adding the 2010-2011 capital budget for ESO, CERN, ESRF and ILL gives £58.8M, implying an overall 21% cut in capital spending on subscriptions.

    • Richard Wade Says:

      If you are really that interested I could probably send you all of the numbers. The important point though is not the details or the balance between capital and resource it is the fact that the International subscriptions have been fully protected.

    • Bryn Jones Says:


      My reason for commenting was that I had feared a 40% uniform cut in capital spending might be forced on research budgets, precipitating a crisis in meeting international subscriptions. I was attempting to analyse how some flexibility had been allowed and how this, with some creative thinking, had enabled continued British participation in CERN and ESO.


  7. richard – i’m sure a bunch of us would be interested in seeing “all of the numbers” if that is possible – just to try to get a better understanding of the situation going forward. ian

    • Richard Wade Says:

      I’ll see what I can put together for you.

      You were rightly concerned and that is one reason why this settlement is such a good one.

  8. […] See “In the Dark” for some discussion, including reaction and links in the comments. Jon […]

  9. […] See “In the Dark” for some discussion, including reaction and links in the comments. Jon […]

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