The University of Manchester has been committed to sustaining an internationally excellent fundamental research base in the physical sciences since its founding almost 150 years ago. Building on these strengths, today, the general area of science, engineering and medicine comprises almost 60% of the University's academic workforce and houses approximately 87% of the academic-related research and analogous staff base. The Department of Physics and Astronomy is a major department within the Faculty of Science and Engineering: it was rated 5 in the 1996 Research Assessment Exercise; it achieves 20% of the Faculty's HEFCE QR income and 40% of the Faculty's external research income. The research excellence of the Department spins off into its teaching, which was recently given a score of 24 out of 24 in the Physics Subject Review.
The astronomical research activities of Manchester University are all based at the Nuffield Radio Astronomy Laboratories, Jodrell Bank (NRAL) and are a major strength of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. There are currently twelve members of the academic teaching staff who are active in astronomical research. Three new academic posts in astronomy are about to be filled. Research grant income at NRAL from PPARC, the European Commission and various research collaborations totals over 3M per annum.
The group is extremely productive. In a recent survey of the astronomical output of 43 UK astronomy groups compiled for PPARC by Prof M. Barlow (UCL), Manchester came top of the list with 27.7 refereed publications per research active member of staff over the 3.75 year period to October 1997. Active research is carried out on stars and star formation, cosmic masers, pulsars and the interstellar medium, galactic nuclei, radio galaxies and quasars, relativistic jets, gravitational lensing, and the structure of the cosmic microwave background radiation. Observations over a wide range of wavebands are frequently used to complement data taken at radio frequencies. For example, Manchester is one of the leading UK users of the Hubble Space Telescope, indicating the world-ranking status of its research programmes.
There is also a high level of technical activity in support of the researches in radio astronomy. This is of the highest international standing, with recent work involving:
(i) The development and construction of ultra-low-noise cryogenically-cooled radio receivers. Recent applications have included multi-beam receivers for the Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank and the Parkes telescope in Australia, and a suite of receivers for the UK Very Small Array on Tenerife. Receiver development is about to begin for the ESA Planck Surveyor satellite mission.
(ii) The development of state-of-the-art hardware and software for signal processing. NRAL staff have played a major role in the development of the new correlator at the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE) sited in the Netherlands. Another main area of expertise is in high speed signal processing for pulsar studies.
(iii) The development of optical fibre technology for the transmission of broadband astronomical data over long distances. This involves a pioneering collaboration with British Telecom through the PPARC PIPPS scheme and funding from the JREI initiative and the European Commission.
The University of Manchester is unique in the UK in operating a world-class astronomical observatory. Located at Jodrell Bank is not only the Lovell Telescope but also the MERLIN radio-imaging network of telescopes which are operated by the University as a National Facility on behalf of PPARC. The University benefits from these activities both from the effect on its research standing and the enrichment of the research environment which arises from the interaction between departmental staff and the national and international visitors who come to make use of the facilities at Jodrell Bank.
The Lovell Telescope underpins most of the research activities at Jodrell Bank. It allows unique research in pulsar physics which is of world-class standing. It more than doubles the sensitivity of the MERLIN National Facility and enables the UK to play a major role in international VLBI activities. The proposed upgrade will permit new and better science, strengthening the research base of the University and taking the Lovell Telescope into a second half-century of research with as much promise and potential as when the original telescope was constructed.
The Lovell Telescope has unique significance both to the region and nationally. It is one of the few major British scientific instruments which is accessible to the public (all other front- rank astronomical telescopes, for instance, are either overseas or in orbit). Through the Lovell Telescope, Jodrell Bank is a name with household recognition throughout the UK. In the past 12 months alone, 38 TV crews have filmed at Jodrell Bank. The prestigious public and media profile of the telescope brings great credit to both the University and the scientific community as a whole.
The University of Manchester has developed a Code of Practice for the employment of Contract Research Staff, which builds on the commitment and goals of the national Concordat on Contract Research Staff Career Management. The Code of Practice was formally launched on 26th November 1998. It aims to establish good practice for the employment of contract research staff at the University and constitutes a policy of good employment practice for the University. The Code indicates the main responsibilities of the University, members of the research staff and funding bodies, over the areas of conditions of employment, the research environment, career development and training, and review of the operation of the Code. Grant holders, i.e. staff awarded research grants or commissioned research contracts, are responsible for ensuring that University regulations and guidelines concerning grant applications and the management of projects are followed. The Code has been negotiated and agreed through the formal procedure covering conditions of service at the University and is subject to monitoring and revision through the Joint Consultative Committee.