News from Science Board - October 2010

STFC's Science Board held its most recent meeting on 12th-13th October 2010 at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Science Board's business included a discussion on the comprehensive spending review, updates from PPAN and PALS, discussion on the grant funding mechanism review, an update on the technology strategy, a discussion about the advisory structure and visits to Lasers for Science, the Central Laser Facility and ISIS.

The Executive and Council sought advice from Science Board on pressing matters currently related to the comprehensive spending review, and the Board discussed a number of specific matters and provided guidance to Council.

Science Board discussed the STFC advisory structure, noting that the current advisory structure is large and complex. Whilst this reflected the complexity of STFC it would be possible to simplify the structure. Science Board noted the importance of the advisory panels in providing a formal conduit between the advisory structure and the community, and in helping to establish tensioning between the different subject areas and the STFC science programme as a whole.

Science Board was presented with an update on the activities relating to the development of the STFC technology strategy. After some internal discussions and a technology workshop involving a cross section of the STFC scientific community, the need to agree an underlying philosophy was recognised. STFC Programme Board had agreed that:

  • STFC develops technology first and foremost to underpin STFC's science and facilities;
  • STFC will strategically manage a technology programme from blue-skies R&D to working systems;
  • STFC will endeavour to exploit technology developed for STFC's science and facilities for other applications and through industry.

Science Board broadly agreed with this underlying philosophy, and made some suggestions concerning the scope and timescales of such a programme. For further information please contact Victoria Wright.

Science Board discussed the review of the grant funding mechanisms; Science Board was presented with the methodology and findings of the review and discussed the recommendations provided. The report, and Science Board's comments, will be considered by Council at their next meeting.

Science Board received reports from the Chair of PALS and the Chair of PPAN.

PALS met on 6th-7th September 2010 at Polaris House, Swindon. PALS business included discussions regarding the comprehensive spending review and an update on the Futures Programme with a presentation regarding the challenges in healthcare and ageing. PALS also continued with its development on the science roadmap, agreeing the key science challenges and mapping techniques onto these challenges.

PPAN met on 29th September 2010 at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. PPAN discussed the review of grant funding mechanisms, held discussions regarding the comprehensive spending review; received updates from the UK Space Agency and E-ELT, and continued its development of the science roadmap. PPAN finalised the definition of the key science challenges, after consultation with the Advisory Panels, and agreed to structure the roadmap around techniques used to address these. PPAN also considered the statement of interest for UK Access to the Felsenkeller Underground Nuclear Astrophysics Facility.

Science Board noted the importance of effective cooperation and communication between STFC and the newly-formed UK Space Agency to the success of future UK astronomy and space science.

Science Board visited Lasers for Science, the Central Laser Facility and ISIS, and commented on the excellent science activities carried out by these facilities.

The next meeting of Science Board will take place on 18th November 2010.

Page last updated: 19 October 2010 by Tahmina Aziz