Shaky times for UK astronomy

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This afternoon's RAS discussion session, chaired by Professor Andy Fabian, saw representatives of STFC and NERC discuss with the audience the future of UK astronomy, which as we all know, seems pretty bleak at the moment. 

"It's a painful reduction in support in all areas of science," agreed John Womersley from STFC. But it's not all bad news either, as RAS president Andy Fabian confirmed that several RAS research fellowships for UK students with less than three years postdoctoral experience would be offered to help fill in the gap. 

Due to their budget restraints STFC have cut many post doc positions mid-way through their funding - one member of the audience told us he was given just one month notice, despite STFC's six-month "moral minimum" notice period. Womersley couldn't guarantee that this wouldn't happen to other researchers. "I want to be optimistic but it's very difficult to be," he said. Fabian added that the career structure in astronomy in the UK is "certainly pretty shaky."

Another member of the audience asked the panel to offer some words of optimism that might reassure students embarking on science research careers. "We're standing on a new decade of discoveries about the Universe which we need to use to reinvigorate and re-excite people, such as the Large Hadron Collider, detection of gravitational waves, dark matter, Herschel and Planck etc," said Womersley. "If we continue to make advances in science we have a base to build funding to a more appropriate level. Funding is currently below an acceptable level but we want to get more. Despite the poor funding prospects the UK is still internationally respected and this is one of the best places to do science when the funding is there. I hope we have politicians who understand that. Science is the reward but it needs ample support to be done."


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"It's a painful reduction in support in all areas of science," agreed John Womersley from STFC. But it's not all bad news either, as RAS president Andy Fabian confirmed that several RAS research fellowships for UK students with less than three years postdoctoral experience would be offered to help fill in the gap.

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I want to be optimistic but it's very difficult to be," he said click here . Fabian added that the career structure in astronomy in the UK is "certainly pretty shaky.

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