Sunday, 21 December 2008

UK Annual Theory Meeting, day 2 again.

Town Meeting

This meeting discusses the state of the UK theory community -- which, as might become apparent during this post, doesn't really exist. It's more a collection of people who don't like each other very much, resigned to either being in Oxbridge and therefore safe and happy in their jobs, or to being in a small group and having to fight and claw for a single postdoc every few years. The big groups don't care about the little groups, the little groups are bitter because the big groups take all the money.

I'm getting ahead of myself.

There was again no official STFC representative at the town meeting (disgusting, despicable cowards). Ruth Gregory, who is on the PPAN board, acted as host and told us what she knew. Get yourselves a galss of something single malt, now.

6 of 19 rolling grant applications were not funded this round, and these were mostly from the smaller UK groups. STFC's line was "consolidating", I think. Sucking the nuts of Oxbridge would be my choice of words.

Georg Weiglein voiced a suspicion that this was part of a long term STFC objective to close down the smaller groups, but Ruth disagreed (phew).

The word is that over the next 5 years, there will be a 25% cut in the number of RA posts awarded -- so in five years time, there will be a total of 20 RA's funded. Ruth thinks this is very, very, likely to actually happen, barring some miracle. Oh god.

Even worse, STFC has been considering tieing the number of studentships awarded to the number of RA posts (so they control even more of a department's research direction). Given that there are going to be so few RAs, we're going to lose all our students too. Ohhhh god.

STFC's new "roadmap", called a "strategy" or some such feculant dribble, has just been announced. The document is open for consultation until March, and the message from Ruth is that we have to give STFC our feedback, loudly, but in a unified and non bitchy/backstabbing way (it's no use blaming Cambridge for stealing all the cash, as it will just give STFC a target to point their guns at, was the subtext, I think).

You might have heard the rumour that STFC had discovered an extra 9 million quid lying around. This is true, but no-one seems to know what the money should be used for. STFC has said that it will not be used for grant rounds which have already passed. There is a chance it will go to experiment, who are facing cuts at least as bad as theory, although Ruth says that we should make the case for it to come back to theory. YEY to that idea.

So, that's it. It's all bleak. We've been screwed by capitalisism and our vile PC culture of letting any bullshitting idiot walk into an important job and do it by spousing stolen, contentless, soundbits rather than thinking about all the people their decisions will affect.

So screw you, STFC.

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