The knowledge economy: it’s our future. It must be so because the Prime Minister says it is
That was Paxman’s introduction to a report carried on the BBC’s Newsnight on the STFC funding crisis last night; you can watch the latest programme here, at least in the UK. Scroll forward to 32 minutes in to find the beginning of the report.
It’s excellent, and should be required viewing for anyone involved. What struck me is that when we needed STFC to stand up for blue sky research what’s happened is that they’ve taken the position of denying that there is even a problem. Astronomers are used to dealing with complicated subjects; why isn’t it possible for STFC to say that there is a problem even while dealing with it? Instead, the attitude seems to be that admitting that there is any real pain involved at all would instantly blow things apart. This was clear in the comments made in the meeting in Belfast last week when we were told that troublemakers don’t get more government funding, and it’s evident in the comments made in last night’s program.
In the newsnight piece, Keith Mason gives the impression that we’re turning off old projects (even though they’re still working) in order to do new exciting things. Yet the list of projects – as Michael Rowan-Robinson says – contains many on the real frontline of research, and that’s what hurts.