RSC speaks out on laser programme cuts


26 March 2008

The Royal Society of Chemistry today expressed deep concern about current plans to reduce availability of lasers that are much used by UK scientists.

The society's director of science policy has written to the director of the Central Laser Facility in Oxfordshire laying out the reasons for concern.

The statement by the RSC comes in the wake of publicity concerning the Science and Technology Facilities Council's plans to carry out cuts in facilities in order to plug a gap in finances.

Prof Rodney Townsend's letter concluded: "It is our considered view that a downgrading and outsourcing of the Lasers-for-Science programme would be a real tragedy for the UK scientific community.

Professor Townsend said that the RSC wished to take up the issue of the future of the Lasers-for-Science programme, which has been defined as being of 'low priority' in plans regarding physics and life sciences projects and facilities.

He noted that the upgrade programme for the Vulcan laser - one of the world's most powerful - had been given a high priority and that the high power laser programme had medium priority but that the Lasers-for-Science programme was being given lowest priority.

Stressing that the Lasers-for-Science programme comprised "extremely versatile lasers" that were applied to a wide range of scientific and industrial programmes across many sciences, Prof Townsend added that the loss of access to them would have a "far reaching and profound effect".  

Prof Townsend added that the programme "provides access to state-of-the-art sources of electromagnetic radiation and associated instrumentation that allows a scientist with expertise in the chemical and biochemical application to obtain top-quality data without the burden of understanding the details of the instrument design." 

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