Research Fortnight 17 Dec 2008


Criticism of council 'unhelpful'

Bob Cywinski's article about UK involvement in the European Spallation Source directs much harsh criticism at the STFC that we consider to be unhelpful.

A range of views exists in the neutron scattering community. There is certainly great enthusiasm for the ESS project, and also substantial concern that it should not be undertaken at the expense of funding the exploitation and upgrade of existing facilities at the Institut Laue-Langevin, in Grenoble, and ISIS at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, which are crucial to the ongoing science programme.

The UK's likely share of ESS will satisfy only a small fraction of the future need for neutrons, and it seems only sensible that options be kept open by doing outline design work on ISIS upgrades - the STFC would be remiss otherwise. The STFC has to take the range of views into account, as well as responding to developments in UK research and funding policy, and with regard to possible financial constraints.

We were present at the STFC town meeting on 17 November, and thought it open and fair in coming to a balanced summation of views expressed. The STFC deserves credit for this, and the outcome now posted on the STFC website expresses a very positive approach to ESS.

It is to be hoped that funding will be found to support all our wishes for ESS, ILL and ISIS but, if not, then the STFC will have to make choices that provide best value overall for UK science. We support calls for renewed engagement of the community in developing future visions for neutrons in Europe. But excessive criticism is not likely to lead to better outcomes.

Richard Neimes (Center for Science at Extreme Conditions, University of Edinburgh), Keith McEwen (Department of Physics and Astronomy, University College London)