Activities in Spain

Since the last eNews update in April, there has been several exciting news stories this time coming out of Spain. The most important one is, of course, that Spain has become the eleventh member of the SKA Organisation. The news was very welcome in Spain, with great media coverage and lots of congratulations from different institutions and personalities. We also got some words from the new Minister of Science, Innovation and Universities, the Spanish astronomer Pedro Duque, who said: “This is a strategic investment for our country. The SKA Observatory will be one of the flagship international research infrastructures in Europe in the coming years”.

We celebrated it at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía with the scientists, engineers and administration staff.

Photo: IAA staff celebrating the adhesion of Spain to the SKAO.

But also we had the chance to get in contact with the SKA Office through Skype, where we got this wonderful surprise:

Photo: Members of the SKA Office. Left to right: Fiona Davenport, SKA Director-General Phil Diamond, William Garnier, Mathieu Isidro, Cassandra Cavallaro, Juan de Dios Santander-Vela, Joe McMullin

Following this news, the Spanish astronomical community celebrated the incorporation of Spain to the SKA during the XIII biannual Scientific meeting of the Spanish Astronomical Society (SEA) celebrated on 16th-20th July in Salamanca. In particular, Lourdes Verdes-Montenegro was invited to give a talk named “Adhesion of Spain to the SKA” during the Opening held at the historical Paraninfo (main auditorium) of the University of Salamanca, which is the oldest university in the Hispanic world and one of the oldest universities in the entire world still in operation. The SEA also published during that week a press release celebrating the achievement.

Credit: Photos taken during the session by different attendees

Some weeks later, the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucia (IAA-CSIC), which has been coordinating the Spanish activities in the SKA since 2011, got the prestigious accreditation of Centre of Excellence Severo Ochoa, an award from the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, that acknowledges the Spanish centres that carry out cutting-edge researchand demonstrate scientific leadership and impact at global level. This makes the IAA the second of these centres in Astronomy, joining the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC).

SKA has been a key part of the strategic plan submitted for this candidacy and we are looking forward to starting this new era. Becoming a Centre of Excellence Severo Ochoa not only recognizes the research and effort made by the IAA scientists and engineers during the past years, it also means an injection of energy and enthusiasm to face the challenges of the coming years.

These three events aforementioned were widely covered by the media.

On other topics, national funds have been granted for a project coordinated by IAA-CSIC in collaboration with the ICE (IEEC/CSIC) including funds for the participation in the PAF design consortium.

Among the talks related to SKA given during the past months, we summarise the following:

Lourdes Verdes-Montenegro gave a talk in March called “Overview of the HI SWG needs in the

context of SRCs” during the 2nd AENEAS All-hands meeting celebrated in Nice, France. In May, the VI Meeting on Fundamental Cosmology was held in Granada, with 4 talks on SKA related topics (Jonathan Pritchard, David Alonso, Álvaro de la Cruz-Dombriz and Lourdes Verdes-Montenegro (IAA-CSIC). Also on the 11th of July and as part of the “SKA Our Galaxy: Face-to-Face Meeting” organised by the Science Working Group “Our Galaxy”, Rainer Schödel and Antxón Alberdi, from IAA-CSIC, gave a talk remotely, together with Grazia Umana (INAF), about the Key Science Project “The Galactic Centre”.

From the 10th to the 14th of July, the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) 2018 was held in Toulouse. As part of it, there was a round table about the reproducibility of science, the use of metrics and the challenge that SKA will represent in these regards. This session was proposed by Lourdes Verdes-Montenegro as a response to the request of William Garnier from the SKA Office, who submitted and coordinated it. The session was motivated in a talk presented by Lourdes and chaired by May Chiao (Springer Nature), and counted with the participation of Carole Goble (University of Manchester), Jeff Dozier (University of California), René Von Schomberg (European Commission, Research & Innovation Department), Antonio Chrysostomou (SKA Organisation) and Sebastian Neubert (University of Heidelberg). The session was called “Is the current measure of excellence perverting Science? A Data deluge is coming, it is time to act“.

The main outreach activities have been: the publication of an article in the June edition of the classical Spanish magazine “Astronomía”, the first Spanish magazine (since 1985) fully dedicated to Astronomy outreach, and a publication in the IAA magazine released this summer. In both cases, SKA was the cover of the edition (see figures below). The Spanish National Radio included SKA in an interview as part of its programme “A hombros de gigantes” (on the shoulders of giants).

Credit: left, cover of the June edition of the Astronomía magazine. Right, cover of the IAA summer magazine 2018.

Report provided by Marina Fernández-Peña Mollá (IAA-CSIC)