Lifeline for Antarctic research team

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The Independent Online

Britain's leading research body for scientific studies of Antarctica has been thrown a financial lifeline after it faced budget cuts of at least 25 per cent.

The British Antarctic Survey (BAS), based in Cambridge, which discovered the hole in the ozone layer and carries out critical studies into climate science, has been offered £42m a year until 2015 – the same it received in 2011.

Its principal source of money, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), said the deal should safeguard some of the most important Antarctic research, including a mission to drill through 3km of ice to Lake Ellsworth in the search for sub-polar life.

"At a time when the public sector is facing the need to make significant economies, this is a generous settlement," said a spokeswoman for the NERC. "It is true to say the NERC does have concerns that continuing pressures on [BAS] funding, and the impact of external factors, such as the price of fuel, may cause problems for the BAS in maintaining the logistics it depends upon in order to deliver its science. It has been discussing these concerns with both the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. These discussions have been very positive."

Britain's total science budget has been kept level, although in practice this has resulted in cuts owing to inflation. The British Antarctic Survey has been hit harder than most because of the rising cost of marine oil which fuels its long-distance research.