Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial
web page for the UK Sun-Planetary scientific community


News items will be added as they become available. For the latest news please see the MIST frontpage.

London Autumn MIST Meeting Programme

submitted 24 November 2008

The 2008 Autumn MIST meeting was held on Friday 28th November in the new Royal Astronomical Society Lecture Theatre in London starting at 10:30. For details of how to get there, please see the map on the RAS web site. Note that this location is on the opposite site of the Burlington House courtyard to the Geological Society Lecture Theatre, where we have held previous Autumn MIST meetings.

The programme can be found here.

MIST council response to Wakeham

submitted 02 October 2008

"We welcome the report’s recognition that “responsibility for solar terrestrial physics in the UK has been divided unsatisfactorily between NERC and STFC”. The present division dates from the 1960s and is no longer appropriate because of advances in understanding and in scientific measurements.

We strongly support efforts to establish a better, science-based, division of responsibility that will enable UK scientists to continue to pursue and lead innovative studies in this area. The UK STP community has a strong international reputation for innovation. That needs to be underpinned by better national recognition and support, and active coordination involving STP science stakeholders in other research councils, industry and government departments.

We are ready to help NERC and STFC develop a strategy to achieve this."

Wakeham Review of Physics is published

submitted 02 October 2008

The review can be found here and the response from RCUK is here. STP research is mentioned specifically in its recommendations. Firstly in its executive summary

    "The Panel believes that the funding arrangements for solar terrestrial physics are not optimised to the benefit of the sub-discipline. The Panel recommend that funding for solar terrestrial physics be transferred from the Science and Technology Facilities Council to the Natural Environment Research Council."

which is later described in more detail as:

    "Solar-Terrestrial based observation funding should be transferred to the Natural Environment Research Council. The influence of the sun on the Earth's climate system, and studies of the Earth's upper atmosphere are particularly relevant to NERC. It would seem advantageous that the activities of particular relevance to the NERC mission should become the responsibility of NERC. The Panel recommends that responsibility be transferred to the Natural Environment Research Council for those parts of solar terrestrial physics research which are most relevant to the NERC mission. That transfer should be accompanied by sufficient funds to enable NERC to administer and support the current level of research."

The response from RCUK:

    "RCUK agrees with the issue raised by the Review Panel with regard to solar terrestrial physics. As a result NERC and STFC will need to consider the implications of the recommendation and evaluate options for the way forward. NERC and STFC will publish the results of these deliberations later this year."

STFC strategy consultation

submitted 02 September 2008

STFC is likely to release a draft strategy in the next few weeks and will then carry out a community consultation on that draft. In preparation for this MIST council would like to advise the community to consider PPARC's Solar System Strategy document.

This strategy document underwent a major update shortly before the advisory panel was abolished and as such should provide a good jumping off point. We cannot re-invent the wheel in the time available but we can develop a clear idea of how our science should fit within the STFC strategy. We would like to encourage everyone to re-read this document, consider what is needed to build upon and advance beyond it.

Chair of MIST council, Mike Hapgood, has opened a discussion thread on this topic on the forum and we encourage you to participate. Alternatively your views can be expressed to any member of MIST council via email.

STFC advisory panels

submitted 25 July 2008


submitted 02 September 2008

A reminder that regardless of the title of the panels the deadline for nominations is the 30 September 2008. Now is the time to consider who should be nominated to ensure that we receive proper representation.

Following the recent town meeting to present the new science programme STFC announced that they would be setting up advisory panels to support PPAN. At the meeting they suggested five such panels for particle physics, nuclear physics, particle astrophysics, near universe and far universe and invited community comment. This invitation was reiterated by Prof. Keith Mason when he appeared before the RAS council on Friday 18 July 2008.

Under these science groupings MIST related science would be within the remit of the 'near universe' panel. Discussion within the MIST commuity suggested that a panel with such a broad scope would be detrimental to our science area and so the chair of MIST council (Prof. Mike Hapgood) drafted a letter to Prof. John Womersley to suggest that STFC rethink its plans. The letter was produced with input from members of the UK solar physics community and you can see a copy here.

Since this action has been initiated STFC have announced (on their webpage) that nominations are open for the named five panels. MIST council believes that it is still worth pursuing a rethink on the panel formation at this stage since terms of refernce are still not fixed and STFC would suffer no penalty if they decided to split the near universe panel before nominations close; they could simply populate two committes rather than one.

MIST council would like to take this opportunity to encourage the community to offer suitable nominations to STFC to represent our science area on the advisory panels. We would be grateful if you could drop us a line to let us know if you have nominated someone so that we can keep track. Also if you have any comments about the new advisory panels then please contact STFC to express your opinion, remember that they have said that they are only at the end of the telephone or an email away.

MIST charter

submitted 23 July 2008

At the MIST Council meeting on 17th July 2008, a draft charter for the MIST community was presented and discussed This has now been passed by MIST council and is to be opened up to the MIST community for comments and suggestions. MIST council requests that all comments be made before the end of 15 September 2008. See the Charter section of the MIST webpages for further details.

MIST Council Meeting

submitted 23 July 2008

    On Thursday 17th July MIST council held its third face-to-face meeting since inception in Spring 2007. Items that were discussed included:

    • the status of the MIST mailing list and website
    • the upcoming Autumn MIST meeting
    • the 2009 Spring MIST meeting with JENAM
    • a draft MIST charter
    • STFC advisory committee structure

    It was agreed that swapping the MIST email list to JISCMAIL has proved to be succesful. The old MIST email list will now be taken off-line; it was discussed whether we should simply point the old address to the new list but the volume of spam on the old list makes this impractical. Details regarding the other agenda items discussed will become available in due course

Wakeham Review II

submitted 23 July 2008

    Prof. Bill Wakeham acknowledged receipt of the MIST-specific input to the RCUK Review of Physics. Since the last update the Wakeham review panel has held evidence sessions inviting witnesses that ranged from Heads of Department, through Key Research Leaders to PhD students. A number of members of the MIST community gave evidence to the review.

Programmatic Review

submitted 11 June 2008

    The STFC ad hoc panel on solar physics and STP completed its report on the consultation and this has been presented by the chair (Prof. Mike Thompson) to PPAN. PPAN and PALS have reported to Science Board (see news from Science Board). Science Board recommendations are now being written up and will be presented to STFC Council. Council will have its final meeting regarding the programmatic review in July and although the reports from the ad hoc panels were originally not going to be released until then, STFC have agreed to release them early. The current delay in releasing the reports is allegedly due to the need to correct 'factual errors' in one or more reports.

Wakeham Review

submitted 11 June 2008

    Prof. Mike Hapgood (MIST council chair) prepared a MIST-specific input for the RCUK review of physics led by Prof. Bill Wakeham. This document can be found here. Many thanks to Mike for preparing it and all those who offered comments and suggestions.

    Additional inputs have been provided by the RAS, the IoP, and the Royal Academy of Engineering.


submitted 11 June 2008

    Following consultation with the community it has been decided that Spring MIST 2009 will be held with UKSP at the Joint European National Astronomy Meeting (JENAM). This will be hosted by the University of Hertfordshire on 19 - 24 April 2009. It is hoped that we can build upon the success of the joint MIST-NAM sessions from NAM 2008 in Belfast as well as increasing our already strong ties with the Solar Physics community. Gary Abel has agreed to be the MIST organiser for this meeting.

IUSS report on science budget allocations

submitted 11 June 2008

    On 30 April 2008 the parliamentary Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee published the report of their inquiriy into the science budget allocations. MIST council and a number of MIST research groups and individuals submitted evidence to this inquiry. The report has been warmly received by the MIST council who believes that it cuts to the heart of the problems that the community has been experiencing with funding from STFC. The MIST council press release in response to the report can be viewed here.

    Some Key conclusions include:

    • (8) We remain concerned that the former PPARC community has been saddled with a £75m funding deficit derived from CCLRC to meed the additional running costs of Diamond and ISIS TS2, despite assurances from the Government that STFC would not be formed without any legacy issues... We believe that the Government should ensure that its original commitment to leave no legacy funding issues from the previous Councils is honoured.

    • (11) We find Keith Mason’s explanation for the withdrawal of funding from groundbased solar-terrestrial physics (STP) facilities to be inaccurate, unconvincing and unacceptable. PPARC did not decide to cut funding to all ground-based STP facilities, but intended to maintain a reduced capacity in this field. We urge STFC to suspend its decision on ground-based STP so that the issue can be revisited with proper peer review and in full consultation with the community, including NERC.

    • (17) Given the anxiety that grant cuts are causing to the physics and astronomy community, we are dismayed that STFC has been attempting to play down the effects of the cuts on the grounds that reductions in future grants are not problematic. We consider cuts to grants that have already been promised a major problem. We urge STFC to take immediate steps to communicate clearly and comprehensively to its research community the impact of its grant cuts.'

    • (18) We deplore STFC’s failure to consult on ILC, Gemini and STP, a failure that has cost it the trust of the scientific community. We conclude that STFC’s communications are inadequate, particularly its internal communications, which are deficient both in terms of top down communication... and bottom up communication...

    • Community consultation is key to peer review. This issue should have been addressed at the outset using models from the previous PPARC and CCLRC structure. We conclude that STFC’s peer review system is inadequate and recommend that DIUS review the make up of STFC’s peer review committees.

    • (28) STFC's problems have their roots in the size of the CSR07 settlement and the legacy of bringing CCLRC and PPARC together, but they have been exacerbated by a poorly conceived Delivery Plan, lamentable communication and poor leadership, as well as major senior management misjudgements. Substantial and urgent changes are now needed in the way in which the Council is run in order to restore confidence and to give it the leadership it desperately needs and has so far failed properly to receive. This raises serious questions about the role and performance of the Chief Executive, expecially his ability to retain the confidence of the scientific community as well as to carry through the necessary changes outlined here.'

    Several interested organisations have issued responses to the report including the Particle Physics Action Group, the Institute of Physics and the RAS. The report also received extensive news coverage (see Prof. Paul Crowether's webapage for details).

    It is worth noting that the conclusions reached by the IUSS committee have not been well-received by all physicists. Users of facilities operated by STFC, but who are not directly funded by the same council have concerns that cuts to the facilities that might spare the old PPARC community will damage them (as reported here).

STFC Programmatic Review

submitted 12 March 2008

    The results of the STFC programmatic review have been published.

    Projects have been ranked as high, medium-high, medium-lower and lower priority; current expectations are that the funding cut will occur within the medium-lower priority band. At the moment no information on individual rankings is available.

    As expected ground-based solar terrestrial physics (EISCAT) was ranked as lower priority, as were Hinode and Bepi-Colombo (both of which had caveats attached), which are both of interest to MIST scientists. A number of MIST-related projects were rated as medium-lower priority: Cassini, Cluster, SOHO, STEREO, UKSSDC; these are all at risk (though again STEREO has a caveat attached due to the recent start-time of the mission). At the moment there are only two projects of interest to some of the MIST community that can be considered as 'safe': Solar Orbiter (medium-high) and Venus Express (High).

    Following the release of the priority bands STFC initiated an on-line community consultation. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this process; that includes the many international colleagues who took teh time to support the UK effort to save UK STP.

MIST business Meeting

submitted 21 January 2008

    On the 21 January 2008 a MIST business meeting was held at the RAS offices in London. Richard Wade of STFC addressed the meeting and took part in a question and answer session. To Prof. Wade's credit he stayed long after the agreed time. A significant outcome of the business meeting was the formation and passing of three resolutions regarding the current funding crisis and the manner in which STFC has handled relations with the community and the formation of the strategy delivery plan.

    The full text of the three resolutions are available here:

    All statements in each resolution were passed unanimously. The associated actions were passed overwhelmingly with only one vote against for the final action.

    These resolutions reflect the strength of feeling in the MIST community about the current crisis and communicate our deep lack of faith in STFC given their conduct throughout this affair.

    A press release has been issued and can be found here.

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