At a time when Diamond is planning to grow and develop the facility so that it continues to offer researchers experimental capabilities that are world-class well into the next decade and beyond, the UK government has also been consulting on proposals for long-term capital investment and creating a vision for science and research.
Last December, BIS published the outcome of this consultation in a report entitled Creating the Future: a 2020 Vision for Science & Research¹. This helped the government to develop their long term strategy to make the UK the best place in the world for science and business². In both the report and the strategy, Diamond is acknowledged as a world-class institute. The strategy states at the outset that future investment in scientific infrastructure is essential to ensure that UK research is able to remain internationally competitive. Long term planning and transparent decision making are both seen to be key to efficient investment. As part of this strategy, the government asked the President of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse, to lead an independent advisory group to work with the research councils and review how they can evolve to support research in the most effective ways.
"It is wonderful that successive governments have backed Diamond through its first three phases of investment. This has enabled us to expand the facility in response to the needs of the UK science community from both academia and industry. We have continually demonstrated value for money and ensured that the investment has at all stages been maximised. Alongside other large-scale national facilities, we absolutely depend on a wellfunded academic base to bring the best and most challenging scientific questions, so that we and others like us can reach our full potential. "With the emergence of Doctoral Training Centres across the UK, Diamond has a central role to play in educating the next generation of scientists; and the facility is embracing this opportunity by ensuring that the doors are open to all those involved in these centres, so that they can visit and access the wide range of training, workshops and international conferences that are being hosted. Diamond has the potential to make a step change in the skills agenda for universities, and we intend to work closely with our academic partners in the coming years to make this a reality.
"As a facility, we are judged on the scientific output produced by the researchers who use our beamlines. This output is increasing year on year and, since we became operational in 2007, researchers and Diamond scientists have produced over 3,500 publications, a high percentage of which attract high citation rates, and deposited over 2,500 protein structures in the Protein Data Bank as a result of beamtime at the facility. As well as access to our world-class experimental instruments and in-house expertise, this success is heavily reliant on researchers having excellent facilities within their universities so sample preparation work can be done prior to the beamtime itself. In turn, it is essential that the UK academic community, together with the charity-supported research sector News and industry, continue to have access to the unique instruments provided by Diamond. This requires sustained, strategic investment to maintain and develop them and ensure they remain world-class within the global synchrotron field where technical developments are moving at a very rapid pace. We must also be effective at converting some of the knowledge we produce into innovation and impact in partnership with industry, directly or through university collaborations."
"Research Councils in the UK are currently faced with a very significant challenge with the current Comprehensive Spending Review cycle for funding science. This makes it difficult to adopt a sufficiently long-term view in supporting technical developments that often have much more extended timescales. We would strongly encourage the development of road maps for large scale infrastructures that extend well into the next decade, associated with notional long-term funding commitments that can evolve on a rolling basis."
Research in the UK also stands to benefit significantly from facilities like Diamond developing strategic partnerships with universities, research councils and industry. This has already been demonstrated with the Diamond Manchester collaboration in the field of materials science whereby Manchester is investing in technical development that benefits Diamond and the wider user community in return for an increased level of access to the facility.
Andrew continues, "We believe that strategic partnerships between large-scale facilities, universities and industry offer huge potential in terms of leveraging additional funding, manpower and expertise. Large-scale infrastructures such as Diamond can prove very effective in establishing and supporting medium-scale infrastructures. We are seeing this now with the new electron Bio- Imaging Centre (eBIC) and the Electron microscopy centre for physical sciences, where we are working in partnership with Oxford University, Birkbeck College and Johnson Matthey with support from the Research Councils and the Wellcome Trust."
"The collaboration exploits the expertise at Diamond to develop relevant technologies and techniques for the benefit of all partners, including users across the UK who can access a large fraction of the facility as a national resource. Diamond is set up to run 24 hours a day, six days a week (every Tuesday is a Machine Development day), so such partnerships offer the potential to provide researchers with valuable facilities as close to 24/7 as is technically feasible."
"With instrumentation that is beyond a single university’s reach in terms of investment and operational resources, we believe there is a need for more such collaborations and we are actively talking to universities and the research councils about future possibilities in this area." Diamond is a national facility but operates within a global community of light sources. This again provides opportunities to optimise collaborations on common technical challenges, sharing expertise and training opportunities and co-ordinating development of instrumentation in a complementary manner that reduces duplication in areas that are very specialised. Funding of large-scale research infrastructures should have an international dimension to harness the benefits and maximise efficiency and return on investment.
1. BIS Consultation Outcome, 2014. Science and research: proposals for long-term capital investment. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/science-and-researchproposals- for-long-term-capital-investment
2. BIS Policy Paper, 2014. Our plan for growth: science and innovation. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-plan-for-growthscience- and-innovation
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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