Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Saving the Australian Synchrotron

By John Boldeman

The possibility that political wrangling could lead to the closure of the Australian Synchrotron is almost beyond comprehension.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

All advanced societies have at their core a body of technological scientists and engineers who contribute substantially to the economic and sociological development of their populations.

Switzerland is one nation that stands out. It does not belong to the European Union, it has limited mineral resources and has to rely on the expertise and capabilities of its people. At the centre of its national competence is a proportionally large number of experienced engineers and scientists who depend on their advanced scientific infrastructure.

Among the frontier facilities in Switzerland are the Swiss Light Source, the Spallation Neutron Source and the Proton Therapy Facility in addition to many less capital-intensive equipment. Construction of a Free Electron Laser, a new landmark facility, is on schedule.

Australia, by contrast, has very limited major scientific infrastructure. It was clear in the 1980s that the key major facility needed to back our economy was a synchrotron. Many senior Australian scientists and engineers believed that an Australian facility was an unrealistic dream and that it was essential to expand Australia’s use of international synchrotron facilities.

However, over the next decade the Australian research community expanded dramatically and several proposals were developed to construct a national facility. Finally, the Australian...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

John Boldeman FTSE is a professor at the Institute of Nuclear Science at the University of Sydney and a Senior Science Advisor at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.