Summer 2004 Newsletter : Scientific Vandalism?
This was how Prospect, the scientific trade union representing more than 105,000 members in the public and private sectors, described the announced withdrawal of BBSRC core funding from Silsoe Research Institute. About 160 jobs and many key areas of scientific research are now under threat. This proposal is just another in a long line of cuts affecting research within agricultural science, both for crops and animals.
If the plan is implemented, as now looks fairly certain, Silsoe will close in 2006 with the loss of over two thirds of the 200 staff currently employed there. About 40, together with their related funding, are expected to be redeployed to Rothamsted Research or to academic institutions.
Silsoe has been internationally recognized as being at the forefront of bio-engineering research into such areas as the humane transportation of poultry and large animals, the safe recycling of waste, odour control and abatement, livestock engineering, environment and welfare, robotics and automation and sustainable soil function. In all of these areas Silsoe has made great strides economically benefiting UK agriculture as a whole and also the welfare of the animals within our care. About two thirds of its work is now for commercial clients.
Prospect estimates the cost of the closure at £20 - £30 m, reflecting the cost of redundancies and also the potential penalty from the Department of Trade and Industry for handing back the site almost immediately after a new 999 year lease had been renewed. But the loss to the industry will be far greater and it is feared that, once again, many world class teams of research scientists will be broken up.
As we go to press Prospect has indicated that it is in talks with a large private-sector company in an effort to mount a rescue package for 85% of the site's work.
Surely we cannot afford to lose yet more staff and research work of this quality?
Any views expressed in this article are those of the Editor, largely reflecting those reported by the main scientific trade's union Prospect. They are not necessarily those of the Silsoe management or of individual members of staff.
John Parsons - Editor