Access to Global Infrastructure

Access to Global Infrastructure

In order to ensure the growth of globally competitive researchers and highly qualified postgraduate students, state of the art research infrastructure is an essential requirement. The NRF brokers agreements to enable Access to Global Infrastructure (AGI) through collaboration and knowledge generation between local and global researchers. Global Infrastructure refers to the internationalisation of large-scale research infrastructures that have evolved to meet the scientific demands that extend further than the capability of individual countries or institutions in terms of scope, cost and complexity. Support for access to global infrastructure is an essential mechanism for South African researchers to achieve international competitiveness in knowledge generation, innovation and human capital development. Such access is provided through membership and/or collaboration agreements between South Africa and the particular institution managing a particular research infrastructure facility. These include the: the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR), the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.),

European Organisation for Nuclear Research

CERN is a European research organisation that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. The NRF, acting through its National Facility iThemba LABS, was appointed by the Department of Science and Innovation to host the SA-CERN programme. The SA-CERN Consortium was launched in December 2008 and since then, the SA-CERN collaboration has contributed to the formation of a South African research partnership, effectively creating a distributed research laboratory across SA, and to the establishment of a grid computational network linking all physics institutes. The SA-CERN consortium continues to strengthen the local research community by creating links between all research institutes and academia in South Africa and the rest of the world.

The SA-CERN programme gives South African researchers and postgraduate students access to the largest open research facility in the world. South African researchers and postgraduate students participate in a SA-CERN Theory Group and in three experiments in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, namely:

ATLAS (a Torodial LHC Apparatus);
ALICE (a Large Ion Collider Experiment); and
ISOLDE (Isotope Separator on Line Device).

Joint Institute for Nuclear Research

The JINR is an independent, multinational research agency located in Dubna, Russian Federation. The JINR conducts both theoretical and practical research, mainly in the fields of elementary particle physics, nuclear physics and condensed matter physics. South Africa holds associate membership status via a bilateral agreement signed between the Institute and the Department of Science and Innovation.

Through the JINR Agreement, the NRF organises the annual student practice, which is customarily held during September to October of each year. The goal of the Summer School is to build a critical mass of student cohorts that can later advance in research in the various nuclear research activities offered by JINR to the benefit of South Africa. Students doing science in any of the following disciplines: maths, physics, chemistry and biological sciences are encouraged to apply. The programme deliberately targets students from the previously disadvantaged backgrounds, and particularly those from the Historically Disadvantaged Institutions. Furthermore, travel grants are awarded to emerging and established researchers travelling to JINR labs or requesting funding to host JINR research experts for a short period in South Africa in order to enrich local expertise in their field.

European Synchrotron Radiation Facility

The ESRF is a joint research facility situated in Grenoble, France, and supported by 22 countries. It is the world's brightest synchrotron and provides the international scientific community with unprecedented tools to study materials and living matter.The NRF established a contractual arrangement with ESRF for the use of the ESRF facility as a research platform that will provide essential synchrotron infrastructural capacity for the generation of internationally competitive science and technology outputs.

Among the strategic objectives of the arrangement between the NRF and the ESRF are to provide the South African research community with access to world-class research infrastructure facilities and to develop the capacity in South Africa for the use of hard X-ray synchrotron light sources such as the ones presently available at the ESRF. In terms of the agreement, users of the ESRF from South Africa have the same right of access to scheduled beam time and support services at the ESRF and the same obligations as users from other contracting party countries in line with the ESRF review processes. The agreement allows South African researchers access to a maximum of 0.33% of beam time at the ESRF.

High Energy Stereoscopic System

H.E.S.S. is the world's leading ground-based very-high-energy gamma-ray observatory located south-west of Windhoek, Namibia. It is a system of Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes (IACT) for the investigation of cosmic gamma rays in the photon energy range of 0.03 to 100 TeV. South Africa participates in the H.E.S.S. gamma ray telescope through the SA-GAMMA pogramme, and will continue to do so until the next generation instrument, the Cherenkov Array (CTA), is constructed in Chile. SA-GAMMA is a consortium of South African Universities and research institutions, which engage in research in the fields of gamma-ray astronomy and high-energy astrophysics.