"Minimalist mode" almost sounds like some sort of new art fad or perhaps a new way of cooking nouvelle cuisine, but it's the term that's being used to describe the new operating mode that UKIRT will switch to at the end of the year.
A few weeks ago I hinted that UKIRT would be undergoing the most significant operational change in its history and it's now official. The announcement is available under the "Latest News" section on the the UKIRT home page and you can read it here - "A Minimalist Operating Mode for UKIRT".
The argument for switching to this new mode is actually quite simple. The Joint Astronomy Centre (JAC) runs both the JCMT and UKIRT and many resources are shared. The JCMT is currently commissioning SCUBA-2 which is a high priority project. If UKIRT were to close to save costs, then those resources are no longer shared and the costs for running the JCMT increase. The trick is to find a way to reduce the costs of UKIRT so that the savings equal the increase in costs of running the JCMT on its own. This is what minimalist mode achieves and in effect means the UKIRT delivers its excellent science for free. Well - perhaps a little simplistic but that's essentially the reason UKIRT survives for now and it also allows us some more time to explore future funding possibilities.
Still, it's going to be a painful process for many because as the announcement says, staffing numbers will be reduced. The next few months are going to be quite challenging.