World’s largest radio telescope project eyes open-access platforms | News
Sharing knowledge through open-access platforms can help the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) to be built in Africa and Australia to achieve collaboration between participating scientists all over the globe. And this, according to Dr Adrian Tiplady, Site bid Manager of the SKA in South Africa, fits in snugly with the free skies policy that radio astronomy has historically supported. 'Radio astronomy has always supported a free skies policy and thus also supported free access to information,' he says. 'The objectives of the open-access movement therefore fit in quite well with the approach of those working in the field of radio astronomy. 'Open access does not only provide free access to research material while still honouring all copyright protocols, but it can also help to facilitate collaborations between researchers in developed and developing countries,' Tiplady says. He will be one of the speakers at the Berlin 10 Open Access Conference (6-8 November 2012), hosted by Stellenbosch University. It will be the first time that the Berlin Open Access Conference takes place in Africa. The theme this year is 'Networked Knowledge in a Networked World: Participation in Open Access'... 'SKA is a major international project with many stakeholders from across the world. With at least 13 countries working on the SKA some of the world’s best engineers, technological experts and astronomers are involved with the SKA. This offers many opportunities to generate new knowledge in the fields of science and technology and to form collaborations cutting across the developed and developing world,' Tiplady says. Those who have been watching the SKA project unfold will know that the amount of data collected by SKA over 24 hours would take nearly two million years to play back on an iPod. The SKA super-computer (an exaflop machine) will perform 1018 operations per second. This is equivalent to the number of stars in three million galaxies each the size of our own Milky Way. The SKA will be the biggest radio telescope in the world and, according to the SKA website, the biggest science project ever. 'We do not yet have the technology to store all the new knowledge that will be collected. However, this is another challenging field where different disciplines can work together to find solutions and share this on a number of platforms – including open-access platforms. A policy on exactly how information will be made public and shared is still being developed,' Tiplady says. The SKA is a project shared by Australia and South Africa, also drawing in eight partner countries in Africa – Mozambique, Zambia, Mauritius, Madagascar, Ghana, Kenya, Botswana and Namibia – where telescopes will be set up. 'These countries do not have a long history in modern astronomy practices. The radio telescope at Hartebeeshoek has for many years been the only one of its kind on mainland Africa. Through the SKA Youth into Science and Engineering Programme, bursaries and scholarships have been established for young people who want to study in fields relevant to astronomy, including a variety of engineering and scientific disciplines. In this way we are actively working to increase participation in research and the development of new technologies. Through open-access platforms knowledge can easily be shared and disseminated.' Tiplady believes that the SKA can help to prevent highly skilled Africans in fields such as engineering, physics and other sciences to look for greener pastures abroad..."