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News from Science Board - 2008

Science Board met on 26th November 2008 at Polaris House, Swindon. Business items for the day included the Science and Technology Strategy and the Wakeham Review. Following on from their September meeting, Science Board considered the final draft of the Science and Technology Strategy for the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Science Board approved the Strategy for the three-month public consultation beginning in mid-December 2008.

Science Board considered the implications of the Wakeham Review and the Executive reported on the STFC response to them. The Wakeham Review also highlighted the balance of funding across physics sub-disciplines. After discussion, Science Board identified two issues that they wanted to explore in more detail using two working groups. These were to consider the balance of funding across the science programme and the funding distribution between construction and exploitation of facilities. The working groups will report back to the January 2009 meeting of Science Board.

Science Board received reports from the deputy chair of the Particle Physics, Astronomy and Nuclear Physics Science Committee (PPAN) and the deputy chair of the Physical and Life Sciences Committee (PALS).

Since the last meeting of Science Board, PPAN have met twice on the 8th September and 13th October 2008. At their specially convened September meeting, PPAN considered and recommended funding levels for a number of nuclear physics project proposals. PPAN also considered a statement of interest for the MoonLITE project. At their October meeting, PPAN received presentations on Mars Sample Return, ExoMars and the Aurora programme. A report from the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology (IPPP) review panel was received and discussed. PPAN also received a report on Solar Orbiter, but decided to defer a decision until their November meeting, so that it could be considered together with the other Cosmic Vision proposals.

PALS have met twice since the last meeting of Science Board, on 9th and 10th September and 14th and 15th October. At the September meeting PALS carried out a horizon scanning exercise to identify emerging trends and issues that may affect STFC. PALS also heard presentations from directors of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) on future developments at these facilities. These presentations formed part of an attempt to strengthen communication between PALS and facility directors.

PALS also agreed to set up two advisory panels:

  • neutrons
  • photons

At their October meeting, PALS considered a number of final reports from the old Facility Development Project grant scheme. Their main business was to consider the science case for the New Light Source (NLS). On the basis of the science case, PALS recommended that the NLS project team now proceed to develop a conceptual technical design of a facility, and Science Board endorsed this recommendation.

Science Board also met at a specially convened meeting on 10th October 2008 at the Institute of Physics to discuss and recommend resource levels for ExoMars and the Aurora programme in advance of the European Space Agency (ESA) Ministerial in November 2008.

Science Board met on 4th September 2008 at the Medical Research Council, London. The main business items for the day concerned the developing Science and Technology Strategy for STFC.

Science Board considered a draft set of assessment criteria around which future decisions for large investments may be made in a transparent fashion. Science Board also discussed visions and priorities for a number of ‘big challenges’ that have been identified. The ‘big challenges’ are important issues facing society in the next ten to fifteen years, that STFC and the science programme can help to address. The challenges include issues such as environment, energy, healthcare and security. The decision making criteria and ‘big challenges’ will feed into the emerging Science and Technology Strategy.

Science Board received reports from the chairs of PPAN (Particle Physics, Astronomy and Nuclear Physics Science Committee) and PALS (Physical and Life Sciences Committee). Since the last meeting of Science Board, PPAN have met once. At their meeting, PPAN received a report from the particle physics theory grant panel, and presentations on STFC’s activities with the European Space Agency and on the MoonLITE project science case. PPAN also received PPRP feedback on a number of nuclear physics projects proposals.

In order to make informed decisions, PPAN decided to convene a special meeting on 8th September 2008 to consider the projects. PPAN also developed five overarching science questions which will feed into the Science and Technology Strategy.

PALS have not met since the last meeting of Science Board. In the intervening period, the chair and deputy have been progressing with a number of different issues including the New Light Source science case; developing interactions with other research councils to identify facility needs; and considering the process for reviewing the proposed Vulcan upgrade.

Science Board also received an information update on the Science and Technology Gateway Centres. View more information on the gateway centres.

- News from Science Board (PDF-62KB)-open in a new window

Science Board met at Cosener's House in Abingdon on 22nd and 23rd May. The main item of business was the Programmatic Review. The Board received detailed reports from PPAN and PALS, taking into consideration the feedback from the consultation panels.

Both PPAN and PALS reported that many of the changes suggested by the panels had been incorporated into their plans, though overall the funded programme had not changed dramatically from that outlined in March. Science Board endorsed the PPAN and PALS recommendations and was pleased to note that several new projects have now been incorporated into the future plans.

Science Board agreed that the consultation procedure had been very useful and instructive, and observed that a reasonable model for future programmatic reviews should involve a similar mechanism for gathering community input and for making detailed optimizations area by area. Science Board requested PPAN and PALS to put forward their proposals for their advisory structures as soon as possible.

It is clear that the Programmatic Review has been difficult, but Science Board has full confidence in the outcome of what has been a very thorough and considered peer review exercise, carried out in difficult circumstances for all concerned. The constructive engagement from the community through the consultation panels was greatly appreciated.

Science Board is committed to working together with STFC Executive and the community to prepare productively for the next spending review.

p>STFC Science Board held a town meeting on 3rd March 2008 in London to present the results of the Programmatic Review, and to launch a consultation process whereby members of the PPAN and PALS communities can comment on the outcomes of the review. Details of the consultation, and the presentations shown at the town meeting can be found at /consultation.


Science Board met on 5th and 6th March 2008 in Swindon, and discussed how the comments from the consultation exercise would be handled by PPAN (Particle Physics, Astronomy and Nuclear Physics Science Committee), PALS (Physical and Life Sciences Committee), and Science Board.

The PALS chairman presented a report on recent activities and on the PALS meeting held in Cardiff on 20th and 21st March 2008. Among the major items discussed were:

  • the establishment, governance and composition of the team for the New Light Source (NLS) project;
  • the operation and administration of the facilities development grant scheme (the successor to the FDAB scheme); and
  • the interactions with various stakeholder groups, including the facility user communities, and with the other Research Councils which fund them.

The PALS chairman will be attending the following community events:

  • the SR user forum - 7th March 2008
  • the UK Neutron and Muon Users Meeting - 18th & 19th March 2008

The PPAN chairman presented a summary of the PPAN meeting held on 3rd and 4th March 2008 in London. At this meeting, PPAN reviewed 16 Statements of Interest and two reports from the PPRP. Nine of the SoIs where for preparatory phases of the ESA Cosmic Vision program, and these will be discussed in a special Joint meeting of PPAN/PPRP on 17th March in London. PPAN also discussed the formation of advisory panels for community consultation, and will formulate a paper on this topic at the April PPAN meeting. These panels are to be formed after the ad hoc panels created for the Programmatic Review consultation exercise have completed their work. Members of PPAN will attend the Nuclear Physics, Particle Physics, and Astronomy town meetings in April.

Science Board received a presentation by Liz Towns-Andrews on STFC’s plans for Knowledge Exchange and the vision for the Daresbury and Harwell campus sites.

Professor Mike Dunne presented a report on the progress of the NLS project. A steering group has been set up to co-ordinate the studies, and it is planned that this group will prepare a report within 18 months, which is on a timescale consistent with earliest possible funding from the Large Facilities Capital Fund.

Science Board held a preliminary discussion of potential future large projects which are emerging in the STFC communities. In addition, Science Board discussed input to the Wakeham Review of Physics and how to improve communications with other research councils and our community.

The next Science Board meeting will be held on 8th & 9th May 2008.

Science Board met for two days on Wednesday 23rd - Thursday 24th January. The first part of the meeting focussed on detailed reports from the Particle Physics, Astronomy and Nuclear Physics Science Committee (PPAN) and the Physical and Life Sciences Committee (PALS) programmatic reviews, whilst much of the remainder of the meeting was spent in discussion of how procedures should be improved in the future.

Science Board sub-group: 'Dark Matter Strategy' Report.

Science Board has formed a dedicated Sub-Group (Prof Val Gibson, Prof Andrew Jaffe, Dr Christian Spiering and Prof Dan Tovey (Chair)) to develop a coordinated strategy for UK participation in direct dark matter searches that could position the UK for leadership in this area. The Sub-Group will report to Science Board in July 2012.

As part of this exercise the Sub-Group wishes to consult the community on its views of the field. The background and consultation questions as identified by the Sub-Group are given below.


Currently UK physicists participate in the following direct dark matter search experiments: Darkside (liquid Argon), DEAP/CLEAN (liquid Argon), DRIFT (gaseous tracking), EDELWEISS/EURECA (cryogenic) and LUX350/LUX-ZEPLIN (liquid Xenon). Currently STFC does not provide ear-marked financial support for these experiments.  Participation in this field by some other countries includes: Germany - XENON, EDELWEISS, CRESST leading to EURECA; Italy - DAMA-LIBRA, WARP/Darkside, XENON, CRESST; France - EDELWEISS leading to EURECA, MIMAC, XENON; US - LUX350/LUX-ZEPLIN, WARP/Darkside, DRIFT, XENON, CDMS, COUPP, DEAP/CLEAN; Canada - CDMS, PICASSO, DEAP/CLEAN; Japan - XMASS; China - XENON, PandaX.

Present experiments are just entering the region of parameter space favoured by many theoretical models and consequently have some discovery potential. These experiments serve also as a step towards a new generation of experiments which are now under preparation, which will increase cross-section sensitivity by one to two orders of magnitude and cover a substantial part of this favoured parameter space. 


(1) Name / institution (optional)
(2) How important is UK participation in direct dark matter search experiments in the context of the wider STFC particle physics, astronomy and nuclear physics programme?
(3) How should funding in this area be targeted to achieve maximum scientific impact? For example, should it be focused on just one experiment or spread more broadly?
(4) Should funding be focused on experiments currently taking data or due to take data in the next 3-5 years, or should funding also be provided for R&D on future experiments or technologies with the potential to become competitive? 
(5) How might the available level of funding affect the above strategy, for example in terms of priorities for support in a climate of limited funds.
(6) Are there any particular further points you would like to raise?

Please email your response to the questions. All responses should be received by 7 June 2012.

Individual responses to the consultation will not be published, however you should be aware that an aggregated summary of responses (which does not attribute specific responses to individuals) may be published.

If you require any further information, please contact Jenny Hiscock.

Please be advised that from 1st January 2009 Sir Peter Knight will step down as Chairman of STFC Science Board. Whilst Sir Peter remains fully committed to the work of Science Board, he is leaving Science Board due to an increase in personal commitments following promotion at Imperial College, London.

Professor Jenny Thomas, Deputy Chair of Science Board, will take over as Chair until July 2009.

We would like to thank Sir Peter for his valuable service and wish him the best of luck in his new role.

Last updated: 09 March 2017


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