Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Dish of the Day

You may remember that back in March I expressed disgust that the UK government appeared to be considering withdrawing funding from the Jodrell Bank radio telescope, and asked all my readers to sign an online petition to save it.

Well, whether as a result of the petition or not, there seems to be good news. I received a reply from the Prime Minister's Office at the weekend, as follows:

The University of Manchester and the Science and Technology Facilities Council have agreed a way forward for funding e-MERLIN which should ensure that Jodrell Bank remains as a global centre of research excellence in radio astronomy. The UK has an acknowledged international leading position in the development of radio astronomy facilities and science and the Government has no intention of letting that slip.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and its predecessor Research Councils, has provided grant funding for Jodrell Bank to carry out a number of research projects over the years.

The STFC has recently carried out a review of all its programmes, including the e-MERLIN project which is run by Jodrell Bank and involves a network of seven UK radio telescopes. This review, which involved advice from independent scientists, has been used to help set investment priorities for this spending review period (2008/9 – 2010/11). While the Government sets the overarching strategy, the research community itself, the Research Councils and researchers, set priorities and distribute funds through a process of peer review in line with the long-established Haldane principle. STFC released the results of its Programmatic Review on 3 July and announced a three year £1.9 billion investment programme which keeps the UK at the forefront of scientific excellence. Details of the results of the Programmatic Review can be found on STFC’s website (www.scitech.ac.uk).

STFC made clear the strategic importance of e-MERLIN to the future of UK radio astronomy. It stated that it would continue working with the facility owners - the University of Manchester, and other stakeholders to find a solution for the financial support of e-MERLIN operations in the medium term on a shared cost basis. As a first stage in this process STFC has confirmed that it will continue its current contributions to the operating cost of e-MERLIN for the next 2 years.

The Jodrell Bank Observatory is involved in a number of other radio astronomy activities in addition to e-MERLIN. Researchers at Jodrell Bank and in Manchester are leading the consortium in Europe to design the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio astronomy facility. The proposed Square Kilometre Array will be a telescope array with unprecedented sensitivity, but it will need to be sited in a remote radio-quiet location for uninterrupted observations, and away from densely populated areas with significant radio interference, such as most of the UK. The Square Kilometre Array will be a global project, likely to be built in Australia or South Africa, and represents the future of radio astronomy. The Government is determined that UK researchers should maintain their leading role in the SKA project, which in time will support world class research. Jodrell Bank already heads the global design office, and the Government has indicated that it is willing to invest some of the capital proceeds from the forthcoming auction of analogue TV spectrum to ensure continued UK leadership in pathfinder projects for the Square Kilometre Array.

Manchester will also host the UK’s Atacama Large Millimetric Array (ALMA) support centre, with support provided by STFC. ALMA is a multi-million Euro telescope project under construction at a remote site in Chile, to which the UK contributes via its membership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The regional ALMA centre will provide the key focus for the UK community in the use of this world-leading development utilising the skills of researchers and academics at Jodrell Bank and the University.



At 14 October, 2008 13:04, Blogger Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Yay indeed! Great news!


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