back to article Report: UK physics 'damaged' by budget blunder bloodbath

An authoritative review into the management of physics in the UK has concluded that overall things are in good order. However, the panel led by Professor Bill Wakeham also identified "weaknesses" in the present physics setup, and said that "significant damage" had been caused by recent funding decisions. "UK physics enjoys …

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Stu
Unhappy

Diamond Synchrotron

The massive budget overrun of the Diamond Synchrotron wasn't STFC's fault, it was ultimately the fault of Tony Blair and partially down to Lord Sainsbury and the Wellcome Trust. It was the latter two that pushed for the machine to be built in Oxfordshire, rather than at Daresbury in Cheshire - which is where it was designed to be built. Blair personally made the final call as to where it was built.

Lo and behold, not only did they have to dig much, much deeper foundations in Oxfordshire before hitting solid rock, than they would have had to do at Daresbury - they also found a load of archeological rubbish which further delayed construction and increased cost. Add to this the fact that most of the UK's Synchrotron expertise was already based at Daresbury, and a lot of them decided they didn't want to move to Oxfordshire, and either took more lucrative jobs abroad, retired, or quit science altogether - and that's the biggest crime against UK Physics.

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As a physicist

I'm not sure it's physics itself that's generally important, or just some basic skills like numeracy and an ability to analyse facts (including numbers) logically, draw relevant conclusions, and present them. A decent physicist can do all these. If those skills were more widespread, there'd be no "credit crunch" right now, and economics would never have been allowed to call itself a "science".

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was a physicist

I studied Physics at A level, got a D (and Maths - B), went on to study joint Maths and Physics at university (UEA)

since then, funding cuts forced UEA to close it's physics department, and I'm now a GIS officer.

the university Physics was hard - even with the fact that I was very good at the mathematics side of it.

it's no wonder there are not enough of them.

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Anonymous Coward

Was also a physicist

It's a shame this is the state of play in Britain. Since finishing my degree in 2006, I've been trying desperately to get back into the physics game, but seem to be cut off at every turn (granted I didn't get a first). So basically, I spent 4 years doing a degree in profession I can't work in... They don't tell you this when you start out. And I'm not doing teaching. Ever. THEY'LL NEVER TAKE ME ALIVE!

I think to some extent the boffins themselves have made the profession a little too elite to get into. As in my experience, anything less than a first, a doctorate and an inability to pronounce the letter R means you're not qualified.

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@Stu

What nonsense. There were no massive budget overruns at Diamond. There weren't even any small ones. Diamond was completed entirely on budget and on time. All the crap in the media about it were simply the people who screwed up desperately trying to blame it on a scapegoat instead of themselves, which they did by presenting one of the first concept proposals as if it actually had anything to do with the final project.

While there is an awful lot of bullshit and politics involved between Daresbury and RAL, none of it actually means anything at all in relation to British science. The exact location of any particular project has nothing to do with its success or Britain's reputation, it's just pointless economic politics plus a few people whining that the design for a several hundred million pound lab didn't take into account that they want it near their house. Considering that many people here moved from thousands of miles away to work here, the whiners in Daresbury really don't have a leg to stand on.

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Stu
Flame

@Rick

You clearly don't know the facts, or the full story behind the decision at the time it was made. And before you say anything, I've worked at both Daresbury and RAL, and lived in both Cheshire and Oxfordshire. And perhaps there weren't any budget "overruns", only because the budget and timescale were both extended significantly from the original plan. It's an overrun by any other definition.

If you'd read the actual article, you'd see that the point was that large projects - of which Diamond is quoted as an example - costing more than anticipated was the cause of budget cuts elsewhere, leading to a brain-drain. Perhaps instead of attacking the good staff of Daresbury (did I attack the staff of RAL? No, I attacked the government.) you could come back with something resembling a sensible argument, instead of spouting dismissive tripe.

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