Ministry of Science and Technology on the SKA (press release)

posted: 2063 days ago, on Thursday, 2012 Mar 29 at 15:46
tags: astronomy, astronomy media, SKA.

Press release – Africa is ready to host the SKA - Minister Pandor, 29th March 2012

The process for the allocation of a preferred site to host the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope is reaching its conclusion. The anticipated date for a final decision is the 4th April, although this is likely to be delayed as the members of the SKA Organisation consider the final site decision. The recommendations of the independent SKA Site Advisory Committee (SSAC) have been referred to the members by the SKA Board and will be central to their considerations.

The selective leaking of information to the Australian media has been ongoing since March 10th, when The Sydney Morning Herald reported that "Australia's chances of hosting the world's largest radio telescope have been dealt a crippling blow after a scientific panel recommended the $2.5 billion project be awarded to a rival consortium led by South Africa". The report was also carried by the leading science journal Nature.

"We have always been confident of the scientific and technical strength of our bid" -- Pandor

Since then, the Australian and world media have reported that senior Australian politicians have engaged in a series of political lobbying visits to various countries which will vote on the site, while attempting to diminish Southern Africa's scientific superiority in the bid and ignoring the reported recommendation of the SSAC based on scientific and technical criteria, insultingly saying that the decision can only go to Africa as a result of "the European view which says we ought to be doing more development in Africa".

While claiming to respect the integrity of the selection process, this is a not very subtle attempt to undermine the scientific and technical rigour of the site adjudication process, by suggesting that the reported superiority of the South African bid was nothing more than a "sympathy" decision.

Minister Pandor has refused to engage in a debate with the Australian Minister, but is very clear that South Africa and its SKA partner countries have a site which is able to demonstrate its scientific, technical, and cost superiority.

Minister Pandor does however agree with the statement attributed to Senator Evans in The Australian of 15th March, that there is "no scope to split the SKA between Africa and Australia". (Presumably he meant Australia/New Zealand). If the leaked reports on the recommendation of the SSAC are indeed accurate and there is no "scientific or economic" basis for a split decision, then it is logical to expect that the Southern African site will be preferred.

Minister Pandor stated that

"We were not surprised at the outcome of the SSAC deliberations as reported in the Australian press, as we have always been confident of the scientific and technical strength of our bid. Nonetheless, we recognise the importance of inclusivity and the imperative of ensuring all members of the SKA Organisation are part of discussions and consultations on how to ensure that all parties contribute to and derive benefit from the ultimate success of the global SKA project.

That, however, should not be interpreted in such a way as to diminish the importance of the reported recommendation made as a result of an extremely exhaustive site evaluation process (involving in our case the submission of about 25 000 pages of documentation) by an independent committee of some of the world’s leading scientists and science administrators. Africa is ready to host the SKA and wants to do so. We are entirely committed to the success of the SKA and believe that it is best achieved in Africa.”

via: Ministry of Science and Technology.

nothing more to see. please move along.