29 October 2012
We welcome the identification of a theme on "Solar Variability and its Impact on Us". This is very important given the growing awareness of the risks posed by space weather and potential links, as yet not understood, to long-term climate. However, we can only pursue this through a balanced programme that looks at the whole chain of physics that connects the core of the Sun to Earth’s lithosphere and all the many regions in between. The present draft is heavily biased towards the solar end. This needs to be rectified.
The themes need to be based on the needs of the UK science community as a whole, and so we expect that STFC needs to take scientific leadership to ensure coordination across the UK community and with other national institutional interests (e.g. NERC, Met Office, UKSA, DSTL). The themes also need to reflect where UK scientists are leading world-class projects in solar system science, often in close collaboration with partners across Europe, in the US and China. The study of solar variability and its impact on Earth is a global enterprise with global impact; the UK needs to contribute at a level appropriate to its technical and financial ability.
The terrestrial impact of solar variability now has a major impact on technologies that are critical to the smooth operation of modern societies and their economies. This impact will continue to evolve in the coming years as technology advances. Thus the UK needs to maintain and develop its skills and knowledge in the area of science, in order to support and encourage innovation in ensuring the resilience of new technologies.
We are very concerned by the short timescale over which this exercise has been carried out. We have long experience of the development of science strategies and understand that the development of a good strategy needs a year or so, so that there would be scope for several iterations with the science community. These iterations are essential to build a robust and authoritative document. The present document would make a good first step in a longer term consultation. Unfortunately the timescale precludes further iteration, so the challenge to SSAP is to achieve a more balanced view, and a clear picture of the timeliness of the science, that the whole community will support.
MIST Council: Mike Hapgood (Chair), Emma Woodfield, Mario Bisi, Rob Fear and David Southwood.