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Didcot: UK science facility ISIS praised by international review

By Dan Teuton
5 December 2013
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The UK’s national research facility ISIS has been praised as innovative and world leading by an international panel. 

“Coming after Peter Higgs’ Nobel Prize, this review by an international panel of experts further reinforces the UK’s position as ‘the’ place to do science globally,” said Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) chief executive Professor John Womersley.

ISIS is a world-leading centre for research in physical and life sciences operated by the STFC at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire. It supports an international community of over 2,000 scientists who use neutrons and muons for research in physics, chemistry, materials science, geology, engineering and biology, and is the most productive research centre of its type in the world.

“STFC operates ISIS, and our other user-facilities, on behalf of the entire research base and we have a responsibility built into our strategy to sustain research excellence and leadership. Internationally benchmarking our facilities is one way to ensure we’re delivering the absolute best for UK science,” saidr Womersley.

The international panel was chaired by Professor Joel Mesot, director of Switerland’s Paul Scherrer Institute, and included representatives from the United States, Denmark, Switzerland and the UK.

“ISIS operations are providing an excellent capability to the user community, and are certainly world class,” the panel’s report said. The panel was particularly impressed with the drive for continuous improvement embedded within ISIS operations.

“ISIS has, since its creation, been able to create a culture of innovation that has had profound impact on and will continue to change the way neutron scattering is performed worldwide. Very few research institutions have demonstrated similar drives toward innovation and spread of the resulting technological development.”

The panel found that ISIS, although a nationally-funded facility, compared favourably in all aspects to other neutron sources operated and funded as international facilities.

Panel members based their statement on a “benchmarking comparison” including number of experiments conducted per ISIS beam line, the number of scientific publications per beam line, and the percentage of publications judged worthy of publication in so-called “high impact” publications.

Womersley said the panel had made several recommendations in relation to budgets, international cooperation, and enhanced synergies with other STFC facilities.

STFC thanks the panel for its report, in particular for its unambiguous confirmation of the excellence and cost effectiveness of the ISIS facility. The director of ISIS Professor Robert McGreevy and all his staff can be very proud of their contribution to the UK,” added Womersley.


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