I was talking with someone a few days ago who suspected (thought?) that one victim of the cuts announced a few days ago would be our new UK Space Agency (UKSA). If you’ve read any of my earlier posts on the UKSA you’ll know that I won’t be too unhappy if it turns out to be true. I have no real issue with the UK trying to coordinate its space activities and trying to grow the space industry, but forming a Space Agency with accompanying rhetoric that makes it sound like it will be comparable to NASA is just ridiculous. While writing this post, however, I happened to come across the following article in the Guardian that seems to contradict the suggestion that UKSA is for the chop. A pity in my view.
What I believe is the case is that the new science minister David Willetts was no great fan of the UKSA and has either changed his mind or been pressurised into supporting the UKSA (or maybe he’s just waiting a little while before wielding the axe). UKSA was the brainchild of the ex-science minister Paul Drayson who, although apparently well meaning, wasn’t really – in my opinion – up to the job of being science minister. It was interesting that the same person who suspected that UKSA may be a victim of the current cuts was very critical of Paul Drayson, something that wasn’t openly said prior to the election when everyone was trying to court Paul Drayson in an attempt to protect the physical sciences from any more budget cuts. I have been fairly critical of Paul Drayson in some earlier posts, but since he is no longer science minister, there’s no real need to spend any more time discussing his merits, or lack thereof. There seems to be a general consensus that David Willetts as science minister is a very positive step. There is a sense that he understands the value of science and, in particular, the value of fundametal science. He also seems very skeptical about the so-called impact agenda, something I’ve been pretty critical of in the past. Although I can’t say that I have high hopes for the future, it doesn’t seem quite as bleak as it could have seemed. Only time will tell.