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Foreign shores lure 'demoralised' researchers from Britain

Foreign shores lure 'demoralised' researchers from Britain

作者:暨衾  时间:2019-03-04 02:15:01  人气:

By SUSAN WATTS BRITAIN’S National Engineering Laboratory (NEL) has moved one step closer to privatisation with the arrival on the industry minister’s desk of a report from the consultancy, Touche Ross, which is advising the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on the future of the laboratory. Scientists at the laboratory say that they are now so demoralised at the prospect of privatisation and redundancies that they are seriously considering offers of work from the US and Japan. The DTI asked Touche Ross to evaluate options for the laboratory and its 600 scientists after unsuccessful attempts to find a buyer in the private sector at the end of last year. Unions at the laboratory suspect that the document evaluates two options; either that the laboratory becomes a science park with a core of only 100 scientists, or that it retains the majority of its staff, but is sold off to private industry. However, Touche Ross doubts whether a buyer exists. Late last month, the DTI also announced that the state-run Warren Spring Laboratory at Stevenage in Hertfordshire, which has a worldwide reputation for its research on new technologies for monitoring and limiting pollution, is to take on a new status as a government agency. The unions at Warren Spring are angry at the way that the DTI has negotiated the change in status, and says that it altered important details in the arrangements for the change in status just a few days before announcing it. The unions say that the alterations imply that the DTI might move the laboratory to Teddington alongside the National Physical Laboratory, and that many scientists risk losing their jobs. The unions at the NEL, meanwhile, fear that some buyers might abandon work on safety assessments that the laboratory carries out for the oil industry and for nuclear installations, because such work might not prove profitable. ‘There is simply nowhere else in Britain which has the same capabilities in doing the seismic testing of the safety apparatus that goes into Europe’s nuclear establishments,’ says John Stevenson of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants. The laboratory is renowned for its work in new materials. Members of teams working in this area are receiving the most tempting offers to work overseas. Some of these teams have taken more than five years to assemble at the NEL. The union argues that although the laboratory has plenty of work lined up for all of its research groups, many of the orders are for testing new technology, such as flow meters for the water industry. In private hands, the laboratory could lose clients who might fear a breach of confidentiality. The DTI has always opposed setting the laboratory up as a government agency,