SKA-COOP is a project funded by CSIC (“I-COOP+” program ). This project is led by AMIGA group and gathers participants from different South African institutions: the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), Rhodes University (RU), Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive (IDIA)
SKA-COOP is a collaboration between members from XXX. SKA-COOP participants strongly believe that beyond producing transformational science, SKA must have a socio-economic effect in Africa with a deep involvement of a new generation of of highly qualified scientists and engineers. SKA-COOP aim at constituting a vehicle to transfer IAA-CSIC R&D to the creation and growth of high-knowledge skills in SA in science and engineering, aided by outreach activities.
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA)is an ESFRI project to build a radio interferometer aiming to answer fundamental questions in Astrophysics, Fundamental Physics and Astrobiology. It will combine the signals received from thousands of antennas, with a total collecting area of 1 square km, spread over more than 3000 kms, co-located in Africa and Australia. It will constitute the largest scientific infrastructure on Earth and the largest scientific data generator in the world, generating few hundreds of PB/yrof data. Access to data, tools, computing and storage for knowledge extraction will be in charge of a worldwide network of SKA Regional Centres (SRCs), to be accredited by the SKA Observatory. A series of demonstrator telescopes are already operational or under development, paving the way for SKA technologies. JVLA, GMRT or LOFAR are among the pathfinders, while the 4 precursorsare located in the future sites of SKA: MeerKAT and HERAin South Africa (SA), and ASKAP and MWA in Australia.
The PI of this application (Lourdes Verdes-Montenegro, hereafter LVM) leads the scientific and technological participation of Spain in SKA, has been designated by the Ministry as the Science Director representing Spain in the SKA Board, and PI of AMIGA team (amiga.iaa.es), whose core is located at IAA (a Severo Ochoa Excellence Centre) and is involved both at scientific and technological level in the SKA. AMIGA’s science is aligned with SKA1 prioritized goals. On-going efforts of AMIGA with the JVLA and GMRT to study atomic hydrogen (HI) in different environments are being taken forward through the current participation of the team inapproved scientific Large Programmes of MeerKAT and ASKAP. LVM coordinates the development of a prototype of SKA Regional Center (SRC) at the IAA-CSIC, togetherwith the participant in this i-COOP+ action Susana Sánchez. AMIGA is involved in the design of the SRCs by means of two H2020 projects and several committees, as detailed in the “Consortium” subsection. IAA is as well leading institution in Spain in terms of innovation in Outreach techniques, and member of the SKA Communications and Outreach Network (SKACON), with the lead of the Outreach Department of IAA participating in this action (E.García,e.g.director of audiovisuals for cinema, TV and internet, part of them inH2020 projects).
This application aims to favour training and exchange of knowledge of scientific and technical personnel from 3 South African (SA) institutions (Inter-University Institute For Data Intensive Astronomy -IDIA, South African Radio Astronomy Observatory -SARAO- and Rhodes University -RU) who will benefit from visiting IAA in order to complement their expertise both at scientific and technological level, as well as in outreach activities.
Areas, aims and associated actions
For these reasons, the here proposed activities, preparatory for SKA, include three key areas and associated actions:
a) Science = Performing transformational science with SKA precursor telescopes: transfer to the foreign teams the host team expertise in performing multiwavelength studies of galaxies (e.g. optical, IR, CO, HI, polarization) in well defined environments by means of advanced instrumentation. This will be highly beneficial for the foreign participants, in order to apply IAA team expertise to the analysis of MeerKAT data.
b) Engineering = Preparing for Big Data analysis at the SRCs following Open Science principles: the IAA prototype SRC will serve as a scientific laboratoryto transfer IAA expertise in applying e-Science/Open Science tools to enhance the accessibility and reproducibility of data and pipelines being developed by the SA partners for MeerKAT. This is of particular interest to facilitate training of students and postdocs. Reproducibility and Open Science will be a fundamental aspect of the SKA data exploitation, with which many researchers are not yet familiar. Knowledge generated in a previous i-Link grant(SKA-Link) led by the same IAA team will be transferred to the SA teams: a set of Best Practicesaiming the SRCs to support Open Science.
c) Innovation in Outreach: SA participants in this i-COOP+ are using cloud techniques and Virtual Reality for the visualization of large data sets. It is planned to discuss the application of these developments combined with IAA Outreach team ideas to develop new ways to communicate science and collaborate with our colleagues to promote STEM vocations in SA. Deployement at the SRC prototypes will provide those with a cutting edge Outreach component.
The fact that SKA involves more than 1000 scientists and engineers from 20 countries, including 13 Members (being SA and Spain among them) is already indicative of the international relevance of the here presented action. Furthermore, the scientific activities considered here are particularly aligned with Goals 13 and 27(High spatial resolution studies of the ISM in the nearby Universe and Resolved characterisation of magnetic fields) from SKA1 Science PriorityOutcome. SKA will be a worldwide reference of a new way of doing science, and this will happen in the SKA Regional Centers. It is the intention that those are wavelength agnostic facilities, a fundamental ingredient of SKA-COOP. Technologically, the project proposes ICT innovations of social impact, as Open Science, key to promote scientific discovery and collaboration across disciplines and countries, and sharing of scientific information. From this i-COOP+ action new ideas for Outreach can be developed using cutting edge techniques, that can become part of the SKA Communications and Outreach Network, consisting of 36 members from 15 countries.