Big Cuts to UK Science Research

I have been off sick today, but felt a whole lot sicker when I saw that the government had unveiled its plans for UK research spending over the next few years.

At first sight the picture looks encouraging. For example, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) sees a modest increase on cash terms from 16/17 to the end of the budget period. However that picture soon changes when you note that the allocation to STFC this year (15/16) was £400M. The allocation for (16/17) is £388M, so there’s an immediate reduction of £12M in available resource corresponding to a 3% cash cut.

This is  a truly terrible result for the STFC community. It may not seem like a big cut, but so much of the STFC budget is locked up in subscriptions that cash cuts have a disproportionately damaging effect. I fear for grant funding in particular; that’s always what takes the hit when immediate savings are needed.

It seems clear to me that a deliberate decision was made in BIS to exclude the current year’s figures from their document in a cynical attempt to present a misleading picture of the settlement. It’s a shocking betrayal.

Here is a response from the Royal Astronomical Society.

The unwillingness of our own government to fund scientific research property demonstrates how vitally important it is for us to have access to European Union funding and will strengthen the determination of UK scientists to keep us in the EU.

3 Responses to “Big Cuts to UK Science Research”

  1. Reblogged this on Disturbing the Universe and commented:
    More bad news on UK science funding.

  2. Peter, it’s more subtle than the simple bottom line would indicate – there is a different mix between resource and capital in the international subscriptions for 16/17 relative to 15/16 which accounts for most of the apparent decline. That said, in my message to STFC staff today I said “I’m disappointed that STFC’s allocation is at a level that will not make it at all easy to maintain our current excellent programme over the next four years. We are working with BIS to address some of the most pressing issues but it is clear that we have some significant challenges ahead.” I’ll be updating the community on the implications once we understand it detail what they are likely to be.


    • John, I hope you succeed in the work with BIS. We were all worried about the spending review and it will be good to get clarity what the outcome will mean in practice. STFC has a great match of technology, facilities and research. If one is cut, down the line the other two become also affected.

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