Although the 1998 Danish research budget is the largest ever, research grants and funds for postdoc training in the natural sciences will be halved next year. The lion's share of the money will be spent on politically selected themes rather than basic research.

The Natural Sciences Research Council's funds will be cut by a third and its "free" money - which must cover new initiatives, postdoc training and ongoing research projects - will amount to DKr 88 m (about £8 m), compared to DKr 184 m this year. After deducting the money tied up in long-term projects, there is just DKr 10 m left for next year. The council will be unable to fund any postdocs and researchers will have to manage with 20% less money than they had been promised for ongoing projects.

"This is a bomb under Danish basic research, " says Ole Mouritsen of the Technical University of Denmark. "Most basic researchers do not have the finances for research or training - the basic grants to the universities cover only salaries, buildings, electricity and water. The research councils are the only source for keeping basic research alive, " he says.