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Probing the Radio Continuum Universe with SKA Pathfinders
Several next-generation "SKA pathfinder" radio telescopes and upgrades are under construction around the world, each planning major radio continuum surveys. This workshop was held to bring together expertise in both science and survey techniques, to coordinate developments, to avoid duplication of effort, and to ensure that each project has access to best practice. The workshop included discussion of specific science goals, to ensure cross-fertilisation of ideas and optimum survey strategies.
††††††††††† The workshop differed from a conference in emphasising the importance of discussions as well as formal presentations, and therefore consisted of four components:
1. Review presentations to set the scene for the detailed discussions
2. Contributed presentations, including both oral and poster presentations
3. Organised discussions on particular topics
4. Ample time for informal discussion and preparation
The primary outcome was to rethink some aspects of the way we are constructing these telescopes and designing the surveys. Other outcomes were to resolve that (a) such a meeting is invaluable in bringing the experts together from the various projects to share expertise and prevent duplication of effort, (b) we should hold a similar meeting one year from now, (c) we should also facilitate smaller meetings for specialist groups to share expertise between the projects. The meeting voted not to produce a conventional "Proceedings" but instead will produce a paper in a refereed journal with short contributions from all the speakers, who will be co-authors. We donít yet know whether this is successful, but it's an interesting experiment!
There were several "aha" moments:
∑ The cosmologist had been invited to tell us, specifically, what these surveys will do in testing cosmology. In preparation for the meeting, the cosmologists did their homework and came up with some surprising results: the impact of these surveys on cosmology and fundamental physics may even dwarf the science goals we have been working on for the last few years.
∑ Jim Condon pointed out some hitherto-unrecognised constraints which may mean we have to change our survey strategy, and perhaps redesign our calibration processes.
Overall Evaluation and Feedback
The workshop was extremely successful. Lively discussions took place during every break and many impromptu meetings were held to address specific issues.
††††††††††† I don't know how you guys do it, but somehow you manage to create an environment which engenders productive discussion. The offices, the whiteboards, the relaxing† lounge room with excellent coffee, and the cheese and wine, all create an atmosphere in which people feel comfortable discussing critical issues.
††††††††††† We requested wine be served at the end of each of the two days on which there were no other scheduled events, and this worked really well. Relaxing over a glass of wine after a day of focussed talks tends to bring out other solutions. People invite each other to their home institutions, or discuss how they might work together to address a problem. I strongly recommend this for future meetings.
††††††††††† All the facilities were excellent, everything worked well, and all the staff (particularly Pauline Vincenten) were incredibly helpful. The funding for participants was invaluable in bringing some who might otherwise have not attended. Two suggestions for improvement are:
∑ Spare radio microphones for use when recording discussions (our hand-held microphone failed during the meeting).
∑ It would be nice if the lecture room were closer to the other rooms of the Lorentz center!
Many thanks for a great meeting!
February 25, 2011