The results of the Comprehensive Spending Review are being announced tomorrow and the feeling in the astrophysics community is increasingly pessimistic about the size of the cuts to research funding. With one day to go until the broad outline of the cuts is given, rumours are running wild that STFC will have to cut major programmes, exit from international collaborations and in the worst case scenario start to claw back grants which have already been awarded.
Peter Coles has a post summarizing the current swarm of rumours, and Andy Lawrence has a poll where you can pick your poison cuts-wise. At this late stage the mainstream media has finally started picking up on the message of the Science Is Vital campaign, that cuts in research funding are a ruinous road to lower growth in the future. The Guardian and The Times have both had editorials denouncing cuts to science funding in the last few days, while the FT got in ahead of the curve. Jon Snow has been outlining the possible brain drain, and the BBC have given a platform to CASE’s Imran Khan. But is it too late to change the headline figures? The claim is that most if not all the deals are done at least as far as headline figures go. The Department of Business Innovation and Skills, which is responsible for research funding, is rumoured to be the one holdout left. Whether this indicates a change in attitude in Whitehall or an entrenched position in the Treasury, we will find out tomorrow.
A word of warning though, the announcements tomorrow are probably going to be broad and impenetrable. Colin Talbot has produced a handy guide to what to expect. (Charlie Brooker provides some light relief in his advice to George Osbourne.) The resultant changes in the budgets of the research councils, and particularly STFC, may not be known until December, when the axe will truly start to fall.
Update: 20:00 19/10 According to this Guardian story, the science research budget may escape the deepest cuts, and retain “flat cash”, in other words an approximately 10% decrease in four years, depending on inflation.