UK ecology and hydrology expertise under threat
09 Dec 2005
A research body that conducts groundbreaking scientific investigations into the effects of climate change on UK and European plants and animals has been instructed by its sponsor body to axe a third of its staff.
The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology is set to lose 200 staff after its parent organisation, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), tabled plans to restructure CEH in response to a funding crisis facing environmental sciences.
Condemning the decision, the scientists’ union Prospect warned that the loss of up to 170 of CEH’s leading environmental scientists, along with 70 support staff, will denude the UK science base of invaluable expertise at a time when impartial advice concerning the effects of global warming is vital.
Under the proposals put forward by NERC, CEH’s sites in Banchory, Scotland, Dorset, Monks Wood, East Anglia and Oxford will close along with its administration centre in Swindon. The centre’s remaining activity will be concentrated on its four remaining sites at Wallingford, Lancaster, Bangor and Edinburgh.
Although details of exactly where the axe will fall are still unclear, Prospect believes that because each CEH site specialises in its own unique area of environmental science, crucial information on biodiversity and tangible evidence of rapid climate change will inevitably be lost.
Prospect National Secretary Tony Bell said: "Aside from the impact these redundancies will have on individual scientists and their families, these proposals will break up world-class research teams. While we appreciate there is an issue of sustainability for CEH, if the closures are implemented it will have a major impact on the delivery of science in the UK.
"It seems ironic that these cuts have been announced in the same week that world leaders have gathered to discuss the Kyoto protocols. We will be calling on NERC to approach the Office of Science and Technology and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for additional funding to help rescue the centre from these damaging cuts."
The proposals have been tabled despite an independent review of CEH science, commissioned by NERC last year, which graded all of the centre’s five science programmes as being of international quality and recommended keeping the current nine site structure.