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Developing a World class research programme

In June 2018, STFC Executive Chair Mark Thomson opened a formal series of discussions with our research communities designed to identify new world-class science and technology proposals for potential future investment. The areas in scope were: particle physics, particle astrophysics, nuclear physics, astronomy, UK National Facilities (Diamond, Central Laser Facility and ISIS Neutron Source), e-infrastructure, accelerator R&D, enabling technologies, and STFC laboratory departments. Further detail of the project is available online.

In September and October 2018, STFC’s Council, Science Board and Executive Board considered the inputs received from our communities and agreed to publish the full list (PDF, 244 KB). The project has successfully refreshed our portfolio of potential future funding opportunities. STFC wishes to stress that the list has not been prioritised, so as to maintain maximum flexibility in preparing future budget proposals. We are developing a process to ensure the list is regularly refreshed so that we are aware of new ideas, or those that are no longer relevant.

The projects in astronomy, solar system science, particle physics, particle astrophysics and nuclear physics were selected and proposed to STFC by the relevant STFC Advisory Panel. In e-infrastructure and accelerator R&D the projects were selected through a workshop including members of the relevant advisory panels and their broader communities. Facilities projects were proposed by the Directors of the relevant facility and the enabling STFC infrastructure projects identified by a consensus of the STFC laboratory department directors.

Maintaining a world-class research programme

In June 2018, STFC launched the “Developing a World Class Research Programme” consultation to identify potential priorities for future investment. The intention was to enable the community to think broadly about their ambitions, unconstrained by the available budget.

The 51 priorities put forward by the community were considered by the Science Board and STFC Council in late 2018, and are available online. The exercise has already proven useful to inform bids for new funding opportunities including early preparations for the 2019 Spending Review.

However, STFC recognises the current list is not static. The priorities will naturally evolve over time as research areas develop, projects are funded, and new opportunities emerge.

STFC has agreed we therefore need to regularly refresh the in-scope priority project areas:

  • Particle Physics, Astronomy and Nuclear Physics (PPAN);
  • UK National Facilities (CLF, Diamond and ISIS);
  • Enabling technologies and laboratory departments.

STFC has incorporated feedback on the initial project from our community and our internal programme managers into the plan to refresh the current list, which is outlined below:

  • STFC will conduct a major review of the ‘Developing a World Class Research Programme’ priority list every three years, with the next review in 2021, following a similar process as in 2018 but with a slightly longer timescale for responses;
  • We will also ensure an annual process for the advisory panels for Particle Physics, Astronomy, Solar System Science, Particle Astrophysics, Nuclear Physics, Computing, and Accelerators, and for the STFC National Laboratories and Facilities, to consider any urgent developments that may affect the priorities on the expanded list but without adding to the overall length of the list;
  • Any changes identified through this light touch annual review would be implemented with a newly published list by the end of November each year commencing in 2019.

Last updated: 24 April 2019


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