This post was written by Michelle Brook, the Biochemical Society’s Science Policy Intern.
The use of the national facilities, such as ISIS, a pulsed neutron and muon source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboaratory, the Diamond Light Source and the Central Laser Facility (CLF) are of huge importance to scientists across scientific disciplines. They are used in a wide-range of programmes – from studying photo-induced nuclear reactions to solving protein structures. These facilities are operated and maintained by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
On the 19th Jan 2011 Chief Executives from four of the Research Councils gave evidence in front of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee on the topic of the Spending Review and Science Budget Allocations. The uncorrected transcript is available online to read or to listen to. In fairness, as of yet neither the witnesses nor Members of the Committee have had the opportunity to correct the record.
A quote of interest is from Professor Keith Mason (Chief Executive of STFC) who, in response to a question from Andrew Miller MP, stated “I think we have enough working capital to maintain existing facilities at the peak of their operation.” (9:34:06)
It is interesting to compare this statement with quotes from the STFC Delivery Plan, released in December 2010:
“We will operate the UK large national facilities to ensure agreed levels of access for the other Research Councils. This involves full exploitation of the Diamond Light Source and reduced operation of the ISIS pulsed neutron and muon source and the Central Laser Facility. As part of this we will ensure their continued sustainability as world leading facilities” pg 1
“Ideally ISIS should operate for a higher number of days to maximise its world-leading science output and the return on UK investment.” pg. 12
“Under ideal circumstances, the Central Laser Facility should also operate at a higher capacity to maximise its world-leading science output supports a wide range of research, generating a large scientific output relative to its funding.” Pg. 12