Wednesday, 30 May 2012


From an STFC press release:

"Acting on advice and recommendations from its Science Board, Council has now agreed to:

• extend operation of JCMT to end September 2014, to allow for completion of the agreed science programme for the SCUBA-2 instrument on the JCMT;

• cease STFC support for the operation of UKIRT from end September 2013, a year after the completion of its current survey programme;

• extend operations of ING initially until March 2015, which will provide additional time for negotiations with existing partners with the goal of retaining continued access to the northern sky for UK astronomers."

The reason for ending support for UKIRT a year earlier than JCMT is unclear since there are no savings to be made here, UKIRT essentially comes for free as long as the JCMT is supported. The opportunity to take a year's worth of free data using one of the most scientifically productive telescopes on the planet is being thrown away. As are our jobs.


Maren aka hilobeads aka Palms, Etc. said...

Tom, I just found the press release too. It makes no sense to me either. I said to somebody at work we should schedule the Korean runs after September (as they're not funded by STFC) and that person told me that I wasn't the first to say that.
Like you, it doesn't make any sense to me either.

alice said...

So sorry, Tom. Disappointment is even worse when it makes no sense.

Tom said...

Maren - no, you're definitely not the first to suggest something like that. As you might imagine there was a lot of discussion at the UKIRT Board today although nothing I can pass on right now. I can assure you everything that can be done is being done though.

The immediate Board response to the STFC statement is now available via the JAC and UKIRT home pages:

Alice - too true. I'm at a big UK astronomy research meeting at the moment and not one person understands the decision.

Big Island Papa said...

Aloha Tom,
I am disappointed in their decision, I feel there is great value in what you and your colleagues are doing there, but the "bean counters" don't have the ability to see beyond their ledgers!

We're still here in Kona, been really busy with life, but all is good. Hope you are well in spite of everything.

andy a said...

A word of encouragement and a rare post from me, Tom. You all have so much to offer (and you've proved it with that immense publication graph!) that if any observatory on this earth has a chance of recovering from a baffling decision by its governance, it is UKIRT. I see that the massed Ph.D.s in the UK have failed to comprehend what STFC's game is and I do not get it either. I hope something can be done and I will help wherever I can.

Tom said...

Navychappy - long time no hear. Great to know things are working out for you and hope they continue to do so!

Andy - that means a lot to me. Thank you. I hope we can meet soon (and think Gary's planning some sort of get-together in the near future). Will you be at the SPIE meeting in July?


Beep said...

The decision makes no financial or scientific sense. Clearly the funds could be allocated more intelligently.

But also, the overall picture doesn't make a lot of sense. Firstly, cutting the overall science budget, as opposed to cutting some other things I can think of, seems like a poor setting of priority. Science is the future and countries, and the world as a whole, cannot afford to ignore the need to invest in science.

But also, the economics of what is now being called an "austerity" approach to the problem of government debt are being called into question by experts such as the Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman. One part of the problem is that slashing budgets contract the economy which results in inlets tax revenue and thus increases in deficits in economies which are in a fragile state. The Great Recession, probably actually a depression, has rocked world economies and there is a good argument that this is actually a time for stimulus spending, increasing the number of jobs, the spending individuals can do, kick-starting the economy. Ok, that's enough time on my soapbox...

I am so sorry you are a victim of short-sighted policy. As you know, I can relate a bit as the health care I need to survive is being cut by the governments here in the U.S., arguably the cruelest first-world country when it comes to health care. Unfortunately I'm sick enough that no other country will have me. I already know personally of some deaths caused by budget cuts.

I hope some saner country will snap up UKIRT and all that the telescope, the staff, and even the location have to offer!

Big hugs from me. You are not alone when so many people care about you.

Beep said...

Lots of typos up there from me, sorry :). For example, in less, not inlets!