The UK’s science base has taken on a new dimension with the consolidation of two existing research councils into the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
Formed from the merger of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), and with a wide-ranging portfolio that includes biology and medicine, the STFC’s remit covers all the programmes, activities and facilities previously operated by CCLRC and PPARC, as well as responsibility for research in nuclear physics transferred from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
The newly consolidated organisation is one of seven national research councils in the UK, alongside familiar entities such as the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council. The research councils are independent, non-departmental bodies overseen by the Office of Science and Innovation, parts of the UK government’s Department of Trade and Industry.
The merger of two research councils is intended to bring “greater strategic leadership and an integrated approach” to UK investments in large national and international research facilities and infrastructure, while delivering world-class science, technologies and researchers for the benefit of the UK.
With an annual budget of around £530 million and more than 2,200 staff deployed across seven sites, including the internationally renowned Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh, the STFC will conduct its own research as well as providing grants to fund university researchers and access to facilities and expertise both in the UK and overseas.
“CCLRC and PPARC both had significant achievements and a reputation for world-class research, but we can do more,” commented the STFC’s chief executive officer Professor Keith Mason. “We have a huge opportunity to develop a really coherent strategy for ‘big science’, to increase our influence in international organisations and make a step change in the exploitation of the resulting technology.”
The Council’s activities in biology and medicine include interdisciplinary, collaborative programmes for protein structure research using large-scale facilities such as the Daresbury Synchrotron Radiation Source (SRS) and ISIS, located at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and described as the world’s leading source of pulsed neutrons and muons.