Commenting on a report from the Commons Science and Technology Committee Sue Ferns, head of Prospect research, said:
“The impact this will have on UK astronomy could be catastrophic and felt for years. The tendency to treat fundamental and theoretical subjects such as astronomy and particle physics as the poor relation because they do not provide an immediate economic return is foolhardy and short-sighted – a view clearly based on political timescales.
“A 20% cut in funding over four years and the subsequent reduction in facilities will not only affect the UK’s ability to grow the next generation of astronomers and physicists, but is risking the world-leading expertise we already have.
“In a competitive global market, without access to facilities, people will look outside the UK, while potential new entrants to these disciplines are likely to be put off by the message these cuts are sending. Why can’t we learn from our European counterparts who are investing in science and innovation now to support future economic growth?”
Up to 129 jobs are set to be lost in the current round of redundancies within the STFC, representing around 7.5% of the total workforce. The losses will have a direct impact in the fields of accelerator physics, particle physics and engineering technology, and the UK’s ability to compete in these disciplines.
Ferns said: “The amount of money needed to retain access to these facilities and capabilities is minuscule when taken in the context of the wider picture.”
Prospect also backed the committee’s call for STFC to improve the transparency of its decision making and work to restore trust within the research community.