Science and Technology Facilities Council
|Type||Non-departmental public body|
|Legal status||Government agency|
|Purpose||Funding of science research|
|Region served||United Kingdom|
|Chief Executive||John Womersley|
|Chairman||Sir Michael Sterling|
|Main organ||STFC Council|
The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is a UK government body that carries out civil research in science and engineering, and funds UK research in areas including particle physics, nuclear physics, space science and astronomy (both ground-based and space-based).
It was formed in April 2007 as a merger of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) with the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC), along with the nuclear physics activities of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
The Science and Technology Facilities Council is one of Europe's largest multidisciplinary research organisations supporting scientists and engineers world-wide. Through research fellowships and grants, it is responsible for funding research in UK universities, in the fields of astronomy, particle physics, nuclear physics and space science. STFC operates its own world-class, large-scale research facilities (such as materials research, laser and space science and alternative energy exploration) and provides strategic advice to the UK government on their development. It manages international research projects in support of a broad cross-section of the UK research community and directs, coordinates and funds research, education and training. It is a partner in the UK Space Agency (formerly British National Space Centre or BNSC) providing about 40% of the UK government's expenditure in space science and technology.
The activities of the council aim to enable scientists to answer what it believes are the 'big' questions such as:
- Why is there a Universe?
- How did galaxies form?
- Was there ever life on Mars?
- How do planetary systems evolve?
- How are the chemical elements created?
- How does our climate work?
- How can we create new materials to store energy?
- How can we meet mankind’s need for abundant clean energy?
- How can we design smart materials?
- How do cells work?
- How do degenerative diseases develop?
- How can we design better treatments for cancer?
In late 2007, it was revealed that there was a massive hole in the STFC budget. It is expected that there are likely to be ≈25% funding cuts in astronomy grants. In addition STFC is undertaking other cost-saving measures by cutting down on various facilities, for instance Gemini south. The effect of cuts on STFC-funded research fellowships is yet to be decided.
The UK astronomy, particle-physics and nuclear-physics communities are extremely concerned about the funding cuts. Roger Davies said "I don't think the PPARC Council would have gone along with the merger if it had realised this would be the outcome". On 23 March 2010, the ongoing STFC crisis was the topic of a 90 minute Private Members' Debate in Westminster Hall, on the "Future of Physics Research."
It helps operate / provide access for UK and international scientists to the following large-scale facilities:
- Central Laser Facility (CLF) at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory;
- The space science and space exploration programmes of ESA;
- European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF);
- Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL);
- Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (ING), La Palma;
- ISIS pulsed neutron and muon source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory;
- Joint Astronomy Centre (JAC), Hawaii;
- Diamond Light Source, operating on STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory site. Diamond is also part funded by the Wellcome Trust;
- UK Astronomy Technology Centre, Edinburgh;
- Microelectronics Support Centre (MSC) at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory;
- Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire which has a number of research facilities.
- The LHC Computing Grid through its funding of the GridPP project
It employs staff at many locations including:
- Its Head Office is at Polaris House, Swindon, Wiltshire. This is next to the Great Western Main Line and Swindon College;
- Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, incorporating the ISIS neutron source;
- Daresbury Laboratory at the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus in Cheshire;
- Chilbolton Observatory, near Stockbridge in Hampshire;
- UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh;
- Boulby Underground Laboratory in North Yorkshire;
- Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, La Palma;
- Joint Astronomy Centre, Hawaii.
Knowledge exchange obligations
STFC is active in its responsibility for knowledge exchange from government funded civil science into UKPLC. As such, many technologies are licensed to UK companies and spin-out companies created including:
- L3 Technology (L3T);
- Orbital Optics Ltd;
- Quantum Detectors;
However knowledge exchange activities are not purely limited to commercialization of technologies, but also cover a wider range of activities which aim to transfer expertise into the wider economy.
- Cosener's House, a conference centre owned by STFC in Abingdon
- STFC - could be confused with Swindon Town F.C.
- National Astronomy Week (NAW)
- House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (2007). Office of Science and Innovation: Scrutiny Report 2005 and 2006. ISBN 0-215-03350-7.
- STFC Delivery plan 2008/9-2011/12, http://www.scitech.ac.uk/resources/pdf/delplan_07.pdf
- Crowther, Paul (2008-01-11 et. seq.), STFC funding crisis: Astronomy, retrieved 2008-11-27
- Corbyn, Zoë (2008-01-10), 10,500 sign petition to reverse cuts to science, Times Higher Ed, retrieved 2008-11-27
- Future of Physics Research, 2010-03-23, retrieved 2010-04-03