Open Letter

to the Chairman and to the Chief Executive of the

Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC)

May 8, 2006

Dear Mr Warry!

Dear Professor Mason!

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) mission addresses, among its primary objectives in scientific excellence, the attraction of young people - representing the future generation of scientists and engineers - and the stimulation of public interest in research and technology.  In consequence, PPARC has implemented its science and society programme to ensure “public engagement” and “public accountability” which also includes explicit support of schools and colleges.  In our view, these initiatives need to be broadened, not only because of the lack of students in scientific disciplines but also in order to oppose the dominance of financial and commercial values which appear to replace the social, cultural, educational and ethical quality in our society.  Thus, approaching the public, schools and colleges must not be considered activities in the backyard of the scientific community but important initiatives at the front door of science and research.

At this point we wish to draw your attention to the radio propagation studies, analyses and experiments conducted by radio amateurs.  The sum of all ham radio stations is a network of large geographical extent which monitors almost all frequencies in HF, VHF and UHF more or less permanently. In consequence, radio amateurs observe radio wave propagation phenomena which are typically neglected by scientific, commercial and military radio services.  Nevertheless, all these phenomena ultimately reflect dynamical processes in the earth atmosphere and also in the near-earth space environment. 

To interpret their observations, radio amateurs refer to other scientific research - which explains the radio amateurs' interest in government-sponsored research programmes. Thus, radio amateurs are grateful to all scientific institutions supporting knowledge transfer and the public understanding of geophysical research.  PPARC has explicitly documented these objectives in its funding policy and scientific projects funded by PPARC play an important role in amateur radio propagation studies, including, for example, the UK ionosondes, EISCAT and other projects.

The following overview demonstrates the broad spectrum of amateur radio studies; they concern all levels of the earth’s atmosphere, the near-earth space environment and also future ham missions to the planets:

These studies are supported by professional scientists providing suggestions and, in particular, scientific data which may be compared to the findings in ham radio. It is important to note that our British radio amateur colleagues, in particular, play a major role here because the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) has implemented a board of radio amateurs which is permanently supported by professional scientists, i.e. the Propagation Studies Committee (PSC). PSC has contributed to the understanding of radio wave propagation over many decades and documents the benefits resulting from the co-operation between scientists and radio amateurs.  No other country has a similar institution.

Therefore, the community of radio amateurs is deeply concerned about the investment strategy for PPARC's science programme for the next two financial years 2006/7 and 2007/8. This strategy will indirectly affect amateur radio and this particularly applies to the funding threat to the UK ionosondes.  The steadily declining number of European ionosondes has impacted our studies for a long time.  Being amateurs, we are not in the position to judge financial strategies discussed within the scientific community; nevertheless, your decisions generate high awareness within the community of radio amateurs.

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council is therefore requested to review its funding policy not only from a financial perspective but also from a cultural and educational perspective. The cultural perspective results from the fact that professional research stimulates private initiatives such as ham radio propagation studies and these spread scientific interest, knowledge and methodology into the wider community. The educational perspective results from the fact that young radio amateurs interested in the geophysical background of radio communication may be influenced to study physics and engineering at universities and scientific institutions; this is demonstrated by the large number of professional scientists holding amateur radio licences. We fear that PPARC's investment strategy will not only result in a cut of funding affecting scientific projects, it will also cut an important factor in the recruitment of young scientists. Experienced radio amateurs will be less able to encourage young radio operators to consider the application of science in radio engineering if the scientific community demonstrates a lack of interest in, for example, ground-based ionospheric radar measurements by terminating all its successful projects and facilities. 

It appears that your investment strategy undermines our arguments promoting science and research in the ham community and we believe that this is contrary to PPARC's mission statement. From a long term perspective, we fear that geophysical and solar-terrestrial research will no longer play a role in amateur radio; ultimately, short-term cost reductions will cause extra expenditure in the recruitment of young scientists and this may have damaging consequences for long-term industrial competitiveness. 

We hope that you will, therefore, reconsider the cost-reduction programme and specifically the proposal to close the UK ionosondes.

With best regards,

Dr. Volker Grassmann, DF5AI

Idstein, Germany

Amateur Radio Propagation Studies,

Robert E Parkes CEng, MIEE, G3REP

Steyning, UK

David Anderson, GM4JJJ

Fife, Scotland, UK

Gabriel Sampol Duran, EA6VQ

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Udo Langenohl, DK5YA

Aschaffenburg, Germany

Juho Karvonen, OH8HFY

Helsinki, Finland

Chris Deacon, G4IFX

Hamshire, UK

Eugene Zimmerman, PhD, W3ZZ

Gaithersburg, USA

Graham Kimbell, G3TCT

Surrey, UK

Joachim Kraft, CT1HZE

Aljezur, Portugal

The DUBUS magazine,

André Klingeberg, DF9OX

Bardowick, Germany

Robert M. Gyde, ZL3NE/1

Auckland, New Zealand

Ricardo Graf, DM2RG

Dresden, Germany

Kjell W. Ström, PB3SM

Zaandam, The Netherlands

John Rogers, G3PQA

Cookham, UK

Charles Chandler, WS1L

Oak Grove, USA

Danny Douglas, N7DC

James City, USA

Telecommunication officer, US government (ret)

Howard Evans, W6IDS

Richmond, USA

Communications coordinator at ITT Antartic Services,

Jack Ritter, W0UCE

Raleigh, USA

Kenneth C. Kreski, M.D., KW0A

Affton, USA

James Kearman, KR1S

Stuart, USA

Raoul E. Coetzee, ZS1REC

Cape Town, South Africa

James B. Plummer, P.E., K8ARY

Gastonia, USA

Dr. ing. Jürgen Sturhahn, DL8LE

Windorf, Germany

Wolf E. Rose, DK1IP

Lüneburg, Germany

Trond Johannessen, LA9VDA

Moss, Norway

Jan Kraft, DC6HJ

Hamburg, Germany

The Funktelegramm magazine,

Douglas Parker, G4DZU

Wakefield, UK

Keith Winnard, GW3TKH

Cardiff, Wales, UK

Steve Dove, W3EEE

Mount Gretna, USA

John R. Bingham, W7WKR

Stehekin, USA

Christopher Bartram, MIEE, GW4DGU

Carmarthen, Wales, UK

John E. Tait, EI7BA

Cork, Ireland

David W. Bowker, K1FK

Fort Kent, USA

Aerospace electronics engineer (ret)

Frank Henry James, G0LOF


Andrew Martin Grundy, M0ADY

Brighton, UK

Dr. Uli Heuberger, LA0CX

Halden, Norway

John Bastin, K8AJS

Wooster, USA

Tomas D. Hood, NW7US

Brinnon, USA

Propagation editor for the CQ VHF magazine, technical writer for , editor of

Franz van Velzen, OE3FVU, PE0WGA

Kirchstetten, Austria

Gwyn Williams, G4FKH

Chelmsford, UK

Samek Zdenek, OK1DFC

Prague, Czech Rep.

Boris Plut, S54O

Novo mesto, Slovenia

Jamie Ashford, GW7SMV

Newport, Wales, UK

Paul I. Higginson, GW8IZR

Rhosybol-Gwynedd, Wales, UK

Dr. Howard Oakley, M1BWR

Ventnor, UK

Daniel F. Sullivan, N3OPM

Baltimore, USA

Peter Blair, FREng, FIEE, G3LTF

St. Mary Bourne, UK

Maximo Martin De La Fuente, EA1DDO, HK1DX

La Coruna, Spain

Jim Stevenson, G0EJQ

East Midlands, UK

Toralf Renkwitz, DJ8MS

Rostock, Germany

Dave Powis, G4HUP, ND8P

Ipswich, UK

Lecturer in electronics,

Martin Berkofsky, KC3RE

Casanova, USA

John W. Gould, BSc (Hons), PhD, C.Eng, FIEE, G3WKL

Newport Pagnell, UK

K. E. V. Willis, Bsc, C.Eng, MIEE, G8VR

Broadstairs, UK

Chris Heinzel, HB9DFG

Binningen, Switzerland

R. Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA

Ft. Wayne, USA

Flávio A. B. Archangelo, PY2ZX

Sao Paulo, Brazil

Master of communication science

Sine Mermal, S53RM

Domzale, Slovenia

Peter Kendall, BA, M0EJL

Lincoln, UK

Chairman of the Lincoln Short Wave Club

Leslie Butterfields, G0CIB

Chingford, UK

RSGB board member technical and propagation

Vilko Oblak, S51XO

Postojna, Slovenia

Jeffrey Leer, KG0VL

Waterloo, USA

Jim Barr, GI1CET

Islandmagee, N. Ireland, UK

Norbert Goettsche, DL8LAQ

Kaltenkirchen, Germany

Mark Longson, G0NMY

Stoke-on-Trent, UK

R. Dean Straw, N6BV

San Francisco, USA

Senior Assistant Technical Editor, ARRL

Dr Colin Potter, M0DDT

Oxford, UK

Christian Ingemann Mikkelsen, PhD, OZ7AGL

Kobenhavn, Danmark