ESRF gets good marks from US physicists

20-10-2009

The American Physical Society (APS) has recently completed the study "Access to Major International X-Ray and Neutron Scattering Facilities", which explores how scientists' access to light and neutron sources has been evolving not only in the US but also internationally. The final report has been posted on the APS website at www.aps.org/programs/international/resources/facilities.cfm . It positions the ESRF as leader in synchrotron facilities for the next decade.

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For the study, 32 facilities and user groups across the globe completed a questionnaire on access issues and policies. The authors based their report on this data and on discussions they had with individuals in the US and abroad. In their findings, they put many aspects of interest to light source users in Europe into a global perspective. These include different ways to access beamtime, notably the relation between Collaborating Research Groups (CRGs) and facility beamlines, the role of the facilities' scientists, support given to users technically and for travel and logistics, and effective availability of a facility for a user. The three authors, Henry Glyde (Chair, U Delaware), Robert Briber (U Maryland) and Sunil Sinha (UC San Diego) conclude that "ILL and ESRF with their upgrades are predicted to remain world-leading facilities for the next 10 years in size, in spectrum of instruments, in sample environment facilities and in scientific productivity".

An important aspect for US scientists is open access to light sources abroad. Here, the rules for a multinational institute like the ESRF require establishment of collaborations with "local" scientists. The report highly recommends such collaborations to US scientists "as a route to access and excellence in science”. It adds that “increased international collaboration involving neutron and synchrotron facilities in the US and abroad would bring major benefits to US researchers as well as increase the impact of all facilities".

The authors also note that the addition of new facilities, notably in the Asia–Pacific basin, is about to shift a global landscape which, today, is still characterised by established big players: "The world’s most productive neutron and X-ray users facilities (such as the NCNR and the APS in the US and the ILL and the ESRF in Europe) have achieved their level of performance (usually after an extended start-up phase) by offering a wide range and a large number of modern beamlines and instruments, many of which are unique, combined with reliable operation and excellent, and again often unique, sample environment facilities."