Big science: public investment in large scientific facilities

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Stationery Office, Jan 24, 2007 - Law - 48 pages
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Government invests in a range of large scientific facilities to support and develop the nation's science base. The main components of planning for these facilities are a road map describing large facilities which UK scientists are likely to need in the next 10 to 15 years, and a central fund (the Large Facilities Capital Fund) of around 100 million per year to support investments in such facilities by Research Councils. Currently, 830 million has been earmarked to 15 projects which are expected to cost the UK taxpayer some 1.2 billion to build. (Ten of these projects have now been approved, one of which has been delivered, with the others due for completion in the period to 2011.) The report says it is too early to assess the value for money of the science facilities. To date performance against capital budgets suggests some good budget management, but the latest figures show that, across the ten projects underway, total capital expenditure is forecast to exceed approved budgets by 6 per cent. Some projects are forecasting delivery dates some 12 months or more later than approved. The forecast operating costs of some projects have increased by large amounts compared to estimates when their business cases were approved, and the Research Councils need to do more work to estimate the likely ongoing costs of new facilities. The report says ultimately the value of the facilities will depend on the scientific discoveries they make. It also says that more work is needed by Research Councils to examine the potential impact of new facilities on the future demand for research funding. Full use of these facilities will depend on research ideas competing successfully for research funding.

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