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Wakeham Review announces UK physics to be in good health

Published: 1 October 2008

The Review of UK Physics, led by the University of Southampton's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bill Wakeham, has concluded that UK physics is in a healthy state.

The Review looks into the international status, funding arrangements, university provision, school education, careers and skill supply of physics in the UK.

Many positive aspects of UK physics were identified by the panel, such as a modest increase in undergraduate numbers between 2002 and 2005, high average citation rates within academic publications, and high global standing in areas including astrophysics and solar system research.

Professor Wakeham, who chaired the review panel, commented: "UK physics is strong but faces important challenges. Physics in the UK has seen significant changes over the last 20 years, and the community must be confident that the current configuration serves the best interests of the UK.

"UK physics enjoys excellent international standing and the role of physics and physicists is vital for other disciplines. A significant proportion of physics research takes place in non-physics departments. This provides evidence of both the pervasiveness of the discipline and the flexibility of physicists, but physics departments need to make sure that they maintain intellectual ownership of some parts of their discipline.

"The value of physics to the UK is such that relative weaknesses in its structures and in the skills pipeline must be addressed. We have identified these areas, so it is now a case of strengthening them so that UK physics can continue to grow in stature."

Professor Ian Diamond, Chair of the RCUK Executive Group, thanked Professor Wakeham for his involvement: "We are extremely pleased that such an in-depth report has been produced, as it will be invaluable in assessing the future direction for UK physics.

"The past few years have seen substantial investment in physics by the UK government, particularly in international scale facilities which provide a strong bridge to other disciplines and which are well placed to make a significant impact on the nation's economy."

For further information about the Review, visit www.rcuk.ac.uk/news.

Notes for editors

Background to Research Councils UK Review of Physics
On 11 December 2007, the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, John Denham MP, invited Professor Ian Diamond to commission a review of UK physics research under the chairmanship of Professor Bill Wakeham, Vice-Chancellor of University of Southampton.

The panel was asked to consider actions that might be taken to ensure the continued health of physics research and postgraduate training in the UK. It has reported to the RCUK Executive Group, which is making recommendations to the Secretary of State. The Review of UK Physics forms part of RCUK's continuing oversight of health of disciplines and is the first in a series of such reviews.

  • Chair of Review Panel, Professor Bill Wakeham (University of Southampton)
    Bill Wakeham has been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton since October 2001. His research fields are thermophysical properties of fluids, intermolecular forces, and thermodynamics.

  • About Research Councils UK
    The seven Research Councils are independent non-departmental public bodies, funded by the Science and Research Budget through the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). They are incorporated by Royal Charter and together manage a research budget of around £3 billion a year.
    Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the partnership between the UK's seven Research Councils. Through RCUK, the Research Councils work together to champion the research, training and innovation they support.
    The seven UK Research Councils are:
    * Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC);
    * Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC);
    * Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC);
    * Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC);
    * Medical Research Council (MRC);
    * Natural Environment Research Council (NERC);
    * Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

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