The RAS has submitted written evidence to the Review of the Health of Physics in the UK.
In summary, the submission concluded that astronomy is good for UK plc through attracting UK students into STEM and by sustaining Higher Education Institution (HEI) physics departments; by producing a high level/high value work force for the UK economy; by attracting inward investment, international students and researchers and by translation into commercial enterprises and applied technology. Further that it represents excellent value for money compared to other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines; compares very favourably on an international basis in terms of citations/output and therefore that the 2007 levels of public expenditure on astronomy should be maintained.
Explanatory note for the RAS submission to the Wakeham Review
The main issues that the RAS submission needed to consider were established at a meeting between the RAS and Professor Wakeham and his team on 15th April.
Professor Wakeham explained that although the case for funding basic research was well made and accepted, the review would need to explore the wider economic impact of physics. The RAS was asked to provide details of spin-off companies stemming from astronomy departments and where possible the destination of PhD students. On facilities, the RAS was asked to provide examples other than those supported by STFC. Also to comment on the funding structure, and whether it was important to plan grants income and facilities together.
It was explained that the review is not looking into the background of the Comphehensive Spending Review
(CSR) 2007 outcome. However the review will seek to understand the current funding structure, in terms of how it might impact on the long term future of the discipline. RAS comment would be welcomed on this.Citation impact forms part of the evidence for the review. The importance of leading internationally in the discipline was discussed. It was argued that if funding is cut significantly, the UK's world position might fall quite rapidly. For looking at the overall level of funding of a discipline, comparisons made with levels overseas were considered useful.