Europe's X-ray Powerhouse Hit by Budget Cuts

Daniel is a deputy news editor for Science.

The difficult financial straits of European nations are starting to have an impact on the funding of the region's large research facilities. The governing council of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, agreed this week to requests from the United Kingdom and Italy to temporarily reduce their contributions to running the facility. ESRF management say that they will make savings by reducing the total amount of beamtime available, with the amount provided to researchers from the United Kingdom and Italy being reduced in proportion. ESRF is one of the world's leading x-ray radiation facilities and serves 5000 scientists.

Restrictions on the budgets of the U.K. research councils has put a squeeze on subscriptions to international facilities. Each of ESRF's 19 member and associate countries shoulder a fixed share of the facility's running cost. The United Kingdom contributes 14% and Italy 15%. The United Kingdom requested a reduction at this week's council meeting, and it was agreed to reduce the U.K. contribution to 10% for the 3 years 2011 through 2013. During that time, proposals with a U.K. scientist as investigator or co-investigator will be limited to 10.32% of total beamtime on average. Overall, ESRF will have to deal with a 6% drop in income, which it will absorb by reducing the number of beamlines in operation or the amount of operation, plus it will slow its upgrade program. During the next 3 years, ESRF management will look to attract new members or associates and other forms of collaboration that will inject funds into the facility.

Posted in Physics, Europe, Funding