Axing the British Antarctic Survey would mean the end of Scott's legacy?

Says the Graun. If you agree you can sign the petition. The issue is that “On June 7th 2012, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) announced that there is a strong strategic case for the merger of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) to take place, creating a new Centre encompassing polar and marine science”. As it says that was June, so this is old news (ah, but the consultation only started in 11 Sep 2012), but has suddenly blown up. Back in March JEB had news of cuts at NOC.

Note: I used to work there, but left at the end of 2007… gosh, nearly 5 years ago. So I have some sympathy for them. But then again, I left :-).

If you’re feeling brave, you should read the 9 pages of the consultation document. Some of it seems to be honest; other bits seem to be cunningly worded mgt/pol speak; I’m not sure I’m able to read it all correctly. But anyway: the reason for all this is Money, of course [*].

One thing I find rather revealing is that the document keeps saying “ocean and polar science”, again and again. Which is because there isn’t really all that much in common between the two.

How is this going to save money? That isn’t quite clear: the costs of relocation and /or of redundancy of staff depend on the detail of plans which are still to be developed, but as the proposals envisage maintaining all three current UK sites, these are not expected to be significant. I don’t know how to reconcile that with In terms of on-going savings post transition, savings arising from merging management structures, from merging some functions and from the more coherent and efficient planning of large scale infrastructure are to be expected. BAS and NOC both run ships, and perhaps there is some saving to be made there. But not much; we (oops, I mean BAS) already hire theirs out for the summer.

I was going to touch on the political aspects of this, but fortunately John Dudeney (long-ex-deputy director; I didn’t get on with him well) has done this for me:

Britain is pre-eminent in Antarctic affairs, both in science and in policy leadership. HMG’s long term objectives for an influential place in the international governance of Antarctica based on a world beating scientific programme which underpins the policy, have been outstandingly well served by BAS and the Polar Regions Unit of the FCO. Any proposal for a change in the status of BAS must be judged by whether it will maintain (and even enhance) this success, and there must be measurable indicators of success that demonstrate this is the case. Talk of scientific synergies between polar and ocean science is misleading unless this requirement of government is maintained, because the imperative for British presence in Antarctica at the current scale is political and territorial, and not scientific even though the science is of first quality.

Um. And he is saying that in defence of BAS. You see the problem, of course.

[*] I’ve read in the comments a few people saying “aha, don’t like the message, shut down the science, eh eh?” I don’t believe that.


* Cuts threat to UK Antarctic research on climate change Graun/Obs: Merging the British Antarctic Survey with the National Oceanography Centre will harm climate research, say scientists. Nice quote from Jon: “The British Antarctic Survey is almost synonymous with the Antarctic ozone hole. Losing it would create a comparable hole in British science.”
* Stupid times require stupid solutions, says Romney
* Decision looms on future for British polar research BBC. Oct 5th
* Gore wades into British Antarctic row
* British Antarctic Survey saved as merger plan is scuppered – um, maybe