The President of the RAS has written to the Secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry to highlight the plight of students affected by the recently announced cuts in [the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council] PPARC's budget.
The letter reads...
"I am writing to you about the impact on the astronomy community of the reduction in funds available to PPARC (and its successor body STFC) in 2007/08 as a result of the budgetary difficulties elsewhere in the DTI.
The scientific community was surprised by this announcement, the more so in view of the government’s impressive record of support for science over the past ten years. While PPARC's share of the reduction is only £3.1 million, it nevertheless has a significant impact on what PPARC can commit for 2007-8 . Specifically PPARC has stated that it is unlikely that it will now be possible to start new projects this year and will delay the start of new postdoctoral posts by six months. The RAS is concerned that a group of students finishing their PhDs, and hoping to continue to a postdoctoral position in the UK, will find themselves unemployed for 6 months. There is a risk that the UK will lose promising talent to overseas countries or that they will leave scientific research.
While not wishing to over-dramatise the situation, the RAS is extremely concerned about postgraduate students placed in this position and is investigating the scope of the problem and whether there is anything we can do to help them.
We very much hope that you can do something to mitigate the very negative impression this action has conveyed to the scientific community."