Speaking of the funding crisis in British astronomy, it’s time for an update on the situation. First, a quick recap; the body which is responsible for funding all of British astronomy and astrophysics, the STFC, announced an £80 million shortfall in its budget. While initially I (and many others) blamed the non-astronomical bits of STFC, the situation seems to be more complicated. Full details are given on Paul Crowther’s website for those who don’t mind the gory details, but the essential point is that the crisis is not being caused by profligate astronomers, but by exchange rates and other things out of our control.
The list of facilities affected or potentially affected by the cuts is horrifying, and much worse than that is the general cut to all grants which will directly hit the number of PhD places and postdocs available.
So what can be done? Andy reports that documents released by the freedom of information act reveal that the government knew in advance what effect their proposed budget would have; these seem to be deliberate cuts, not an accident or an oversight. This means that it’s even more important that we pressure the government to change their minds. The Save Astronomy website contains a guide to writing to your mp, which you can do from the comfort of your computer. These letters are having an effect; Stuart rounds up mentions in parliament here and there was also a brief debate on the issue.
The next step is a hearing run by the relevant parliamentary committee on Monday. The more MPs we write to, the more attention that’ll get.