The CCLRC – And Why We Really Should Want To Know About It
The CCLRC is the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils of the UK. Its 2005 Annual Meeting was an amazing showcase of research at every level from the very tiniest scale imaginable (if indeed you can), to the most enormous. Here were world-class scientists and technologists, telling us what they do and why they are so incredibly enthusiastic about it.
The CCLRC is not an organisation which often hits the front page of the papers; but, as we all know, some of the best things in life are the least paraded. So I want to spend a few minutes right now saying why I think it’s a really exciting prospect.
First, though, the basics: the CCLRC is the UK’s Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils. In other words, it’s the top body in charge of (very) Big Science in the UK; and yesterday, 4 November, I was lucky enough to attend their national Annual Conference, at the Lowry Centre in Salford. I’m still buzzing!
The science budget is massive
Consider this: the CCLRC budget last year was nudging half a billion pounds, and it has oversight of some of the most prestigious and influential laboratories in the world, including the Daresbury and the Rutherford Appleton facilities in Warrington and Oxfordshire respectively.
Scientists and technologists in these laboratories, working alongside colleagues in numbers of our great universities, are exploring almost everything you can imagine about our world and our universe.
At the tiniest, nano, level these scientists are looking at how ‘engines’ at the atomic scale are ‘driving’ muscles; and they have developed a ‘molecular flashgun’ – the brightest beam of light ever created anywhere.
At the other extreme of size, CCLRC supported research is attempting to model global climate changes, and look at planets and space.
Science at the cutting edge
Much of this we were told about at the meeting yesterday, with fascinating presentations bringing together simple models and amazingly enthusiastic speakers, world authorities in their subjects.
And in between all this there are the pieces of work which will bring about cures for illnesses, new ways to produce manufactured goods, and greater understanding of genetics…
Then we were invited to look also into the future. Where will science and technology be taking us?
This question is importantly about ‘futurology’, that informed guessing which tells us that exciting things, challenging things and sometimes really difficult to grasp things are about to emerge, all as a consequence of the extraordinary work which is being carried out in scientific communities around the world. To read about some of these anticipated developments, clearly explained and illustarted, just turn to the CCLRC’s own website.
As is quite apparent when one looks at these fascinating developments, no laboratory or university can now undertake Big Science in a vacuum from others. Collaboration is always the name of the game, across regions, nations and continents. And this brings us to another reason why the CCLRC and its huge expertise is so vital, to the UK as a nation and to the geographical areas in which it has a major presence.
Big money and big ideas
Investment at the level of the CCLRC is hard to secure. It doesn’t think small. It brings the most able and influential scientists and technologists with it wherever it decides to blossom; and this, in turn, brings forth industrial and commercial investment, and employment opportunities at the highest level – in other words, it enables the sort of synergies between economic development and knowledge for which any area of the UK yearns.
Do not suppose for one moment that, because most of us would be very hard put even to explain what Einstein discovered about particle motion a century ago, this Big Science has nothing to do with us.
Big Science brings opportunities (and, indeed, challenges) of the highest order, it brings amazing collaborations between people of many regions and nations, and it brings as yet barely touched scope for economic synergies and development.
A pretty phenomenal return on investment of less than half a billion pounds, when you see it like that.
Posted on November 5, 2005, in Education, Health And Welfare, Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Science Politics And Policy, Sustainability As If People Mattered. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.