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Governments praised for investing in research infrastructure

Scientists attending an international conference on research infrastructure in Cape Town praised governments that had made compromises to deliver on the global science facility, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.

The SKA radio telescope is one of the biggest international research infrastructures in the world, and will assist scientists all over the world to work towards answering previously unanswerable questions.  It has seen huge financial injections from the governments of South Africa, Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom, among others.

The SKA has attracted great interest internationally. Already more than 500 astronomers, 58 from Africa, having submitted proposals to do science using the SKA once it is complete.

Prof. Philip Diamond, Director-General of the SKA Organisation in the United Kingdom, told the International Conferences on Research Infrastructures (ICRI 2016) that many governments across the world were beginning to support the project.

He was addressing over 500 scientists and researchers from 60 countries gathered in Cape Town for the event, which kicked off on 3 October, to debate the relevance of research infrastructure such as the SKA to advancing knowledge and technology today.

The conference was officially opened by the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, and the European Commission’s Director-General for Research and Innovation, Robert-Jan Smits.

“I remain impressed that governments across the world are willing to make compromises to deliver on the global science facility,” said Prof. Diamond, adding the project like the SKA could not have been built without international collaboration.

“It adds cost, complexity and risk – but it is worth it,” he says.

The Deputy Director-General for Large Research Infrastructure in Germany, Dr Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolph, says such infrastructure was necessary to provide opportunities for training scientists and engineers, who would contribute to economic development.

“People from different countries with different culture and backgrounds work together, learn to cooperate with each other and gain intercultural knowledge,” said Dr Vierkorn-Rudolph.

The event will also see the launch of South Africa’s first own roadmap on research infrastructures as a guide to the country’s deployment of such infrastructures.

Minister Pandor says research infrastructures were the lifeblood of any successful system of innovation, and should be used to solve some of the challenges the world is facing today.

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