The Armagh Observatory has proven its ability to carry out advanced research projects, to attract external income and staff into Northern Ireland, and to play an influential role in international astronomy, public understanding of science, and education. In recent years, as shown in Table 2, the Observatory has regularly attracted external funding amounting to more than 50% of the DCAL grant-in-aid (more than 100% when the cost of external facilities used by Observatory staff is included). The Observatory is in a strong position to contribute to the objectives of both the DCAL and other Northern Ireland government departments for years to come, and is one of Northern Ireland's most successful research institutes for its size, with a rich scientific heritage extending more than 200 years.
Table 2 shows the yearly trend of DCAL grant-in-aid and external research income, together with the trends of performance indicators such as the number of refereed journal publications, the number of identified media citations, and the number of distinct e-visitors (DEVs) to the Observatory web-site. The number of distinct e-visitors is actually the number of distinct hosts served by the Observatory's web-site, a lower limit to the number of e-visitors, owing to caching by big servers and sharing or repeat visits from the same IP number. (For comparison, the number of `hits' on the web-site, defined as the number of successful page requests, is typically 5-10 times greater than the DEV statistic.) During 2000 the number of `hits' on the Armagh web-site exceeded 870,000, and the total number of file requests of all types exceeded 2,800,000. The DCAL grant-in-aid for financial year 2000/2001 was augmented by £80,000 (bringing the total to £538,500), to cover the required SALT contributions for 2000/2001 and 2001/2002. DCAL grant-in-aid for financial year 2001/2002 is £473,500 (£384,000 at 1993/1994 prices).
Despite the very positive trend of these results, the growing shortage of core funding presents a significant threat to the future success of the organization. The Observatory has been limited to essentially flat funding in cash terms for almost the past ten years, a period in which it has grown in size almost three-fold and increased its research activity, external income, and public profile respectively by much greater factors.
With sufficient resources to carry out its work, the Observatory is well positioned to play a significant and influential role in both UK and international astronomy for years to come. However, the Observatory requires a significant funding uplift in order to maintain its present level of activity (approximately £150,000 per year is required), and access to additional development funds to pursue new projects (e.g. funds to progress the HLF Telescope Domes project). Without this support, none of the Observatory's future plans -- which are within its grasp -- will come to fruition, and a thriving, successful research organization may have to turn its back on an otherwise rosy future. The projected funding difficulty must be overcome if the institution is to survive as a body of national and international importance well into the 21st century.