The Square Kilometre Array: A global Research Infrastructure for the 21st Century and beyond

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a next-generation radio astronomy-driven Big Data facility that will revolutionise our understanding of the Universe and the laws of fundamental physics. Enabled by cutting edge technology, it promises to have a major impact on society, in science and beyond. Its unprecedented data challenge marks it as a milestone research infrastructure project for the digital economy globally.

The facility will be built, operated and maintained by SKAO (SKA Observatory), an Inter-Governmental Organisation (IGO) being established to bring together nations from five continents under a single entity.
Global collaboration and impact are at the heart of the SKA Observatory. The project is arguably unique among major research infrastructures in the scale of its international collaboration, involving countries that collectively represent 40% of the world’s population. SKAO welcomes new national communities to the table and breaks down the traditional divide between developed and developing countries. Its core mission is underpinned by a commitment to sustainability, inclusion and working together with the communities in which the Observatory will be sited.

In addition to the breakthrough science the SKA telescopes will deliver, the scale and technological challenge of the project ensures it will have a significant economic, cultural and societal impact. The development of the SKA will generate knowledge, jobs, provide inspiration, increase our skills base and develop industrial capacity.
Within the context of the sciencedigital@UNGA75 series of side events to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly, SKA Organisation invites the global community to hear the latest progress on establishing a new Intergovernmental Organisation for science.

A series of talks will introduce the project and present the inspirational range of outcomes already being delivered across human capital development, innovation, technology development, education and culture. Speakers from around the SKA’s family will show the prospects for the future, arguing that the alignment with the UN’s SDGs, and the footprint of the SKA across developed and developing countries, presents a unique opportunity for the world.

AGENDA The Square Kilometre Array

1200 Opening and welcome – Daan du Toit, Deputy Director-General: International Cooperation and Resources, Department of Science and Technology, South Africa
1205 Philip Diamond – SKA Overview, the global context and connection to SDG’s
1225 William Garnier – SKA: generating global impact now and into the future
1240 Anna Scaife – DARA: A human capital development project to help drive economic development in Africa.
1255 Carla Sharpe – Astronomy and space science in SA: developing a digital research and innovation capability and a novel Human Capital Development Programme
1310 Antony Schinckel– AUS perspective/relationships with local communities
1325 Arun Srivastava – Big Science investment: an Indian government perspective
1340 Break
1350 Chiara Ferrari – SKA in a European perspective
1405 Bo Peng – The FAST Project: Developing a world-class radio astronomy facility and supporting research/innovation and education ecosystem in China
1420 Antonio Chrysostomou – Establishing a new paradigm for globally-distributed science with the SKA
1435 Lourdes Verdes Montenegro – Open Science for sustainability and inclusiveness: the SKA role model
1455 Kristine Spekkens – The SKA: sustainable and inclusive development in Canadian astronomy
1515 Thijs Geurts – SKA, a unique tool for Science Diplomacy
1530 Discussion
1600 Closing remarks: Daan du Toit

The Square Kilometre Array: A global Research Infrastructure for the 21st Century and beyond


Sep 29 2020


12:00 PM - 4:00 PM


  • Anna Scaife
    Anna Scaife
    Professor of Radio Astronomy

    Anna Scaife is Professor of Radio Astronomy at the University of Manchester, where she is head of the Jodrell Bank Interferometry Centre of Excellence and academic co-Director of Policy@Manchester. She is currently one of the five inaugural AI fellows of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, focusing on the preservation of scientific discovery in artificial intelligence. As well as scientific research, Anna runs two training programs that provide bursaries for students from Southern Africa and Latin America to pursue graduate degrees in the UK focusing on Big Data and data intensive science. In 2014, Anna was honoured by the World Economic Forum as one of thirty scientists under the age of 40 selected for their contributions to advancing the frontiers of science, engineering or technology in areas of high societal impact, and in 2019 she received the Jackson-Gwilt Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, awarded for advances in astronomical instrumentation and techniques

  • Antonio Chrysostomou
    Antonio Chrysostomou
    Head of Science Operations, SKA Organisation

    Dr Antonio Chrysostomou is the Head of Science Operations at the Square Kilometre Array Organisation, leading community coordination of the processes to enable science data from the SKA and its distribution to the global community. He has previously worked as the Associate Director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, located on the summit of Maunakea in Hawaii. More recently, he was a Reader in Astrophysics at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK.

  • Antony Schinckel
    Antony Schinckel
    Head, CSIRO SKA Programme

    Antony Schinckel is the head of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science’s SKA Programme. In addition, he leads the SKA Australian Infrastructure design consortium, which is responsible for the design of the infrastructure for the SKA Low Telescope in Australia. He has a secondment role to the SKA Organisation in the UK, where he is the Head of SKA Construction Planning for the Low telescope, and has significant involvement with the SKA Low design and planning process. Antony is responsible for many aspects of the local engagement activities working with the indigenous communities where the SKA will be sited.
    From 2010 – 2016 he was ASKAP Director with responsibility for the design, construction and commissioning of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio-telescope, and the new site in Western Australia, the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory. After completing his degree at the University of Sydney, Antony started his career at the Anglo Australian Observatory, followed by stints at the Parkes 64 metre and the 100 metre Effelsberg radio telescope in Germany. He then spent eight years commissioning and operating Caltech’s Submillimetre Observatory (CSO) on the 4,200 metre high mountain Mauna Kea in Hawaii before a term with the University of NSW working on a range of astronomy instrumentation for optical and infra-red telescopes at the South Pole. Prior to joining CASS, Antony was Director of Operations for 9 years for the Smithsonian’s Submillimetre Array (SMA) on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, responsible for the construction and operations of this major submillimetre interferometer.

  • Arun Srivastava
    Arun Srivastava
    Nuclear Controls and Planning Wing, Secretary, AEC and Head, Institutional Collaboration and Programs Division

    Mr. Arun Srivastava, Secretary, Atomic Energy Commission and Head, Institutional Collaborations & Programs Division, is a 1983 batch Chemical Engineering graduate from Laxminarayan Institute of Technology (LIT), Nagpur. He has also completed postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies from Mumbai University in 1992 and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) course from Institute of Chartered Financial Analyst of India, Hyderabad in 1996. In July 1999, Mr. Srivastava joined Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). He has been involved in the strategic planning and analysis related activities for the DAE. In DAE, he is presently heading the Institutional Collaborations and Programs Division of NCPW. He is responsible for all Mega Science Projects in which DAE along with DST are participating and is holding various positions in the Boards/Executive Councils of these projects. Since July 2010, Mr. Srivastava has held the position of Secretary, Atomic Energy Commission, the highest policy making body for the Atomic Energy. In addition to representing India’s interests in the SKA programme, Mr. Srivastava has recently been the Chairman of the ITER Council, which is the Governing body of the ITER Project.

  • Bo Peng
    Bo Peng
    The landmark FAST dish: Developing the world’s largest single radio bowl to impact science & education and initiate astro-tourism

    BO PENG received his PhD degree from Beijing Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1993. He has been working at radio astronomy research and technology development on sky survey, transient phenomenon, radio galaxies, space weather and telescope instrumentations. He joined the global cooperation on the planned largest radio telescope array SKA (Square Kilometre Array) project in 1993, conducting the first SKA site survey on RFI (Radio Frequency Interferometer) measurements in 1994. He is one of the key persons to initiate, develop and lead the largest single dish FAST (Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope). He was the group leader of Large Telescope in 1994, and becomes Director of the CAS Key Laboratory of FAST in 2018.

  • Carla Sharpe
    Carla Sharpe
    Africa Programme Manager, South African Radio Astronomy Observatory

    Carla is responsible for planning, negotiating and implementing strategic and funding solutions for the Africa programme, which includes the African VLBI Network (AVN) programme and associated activities. In particular, the development and implementation of the project charters, international agreements and deployment strategies for all African Partner Countries and the implementation of the Africa program. She also provides legal and strategic input and support to SARAO and international SKAO matters.

  • Chiara Ferrari
    Chiara Ferrari
    Astronomer at Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, Director of Maison SKA-France and Chair of the European SKA Forum

    Astronomer at Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur (Nice, France), Chiara Ferrari’s research focuses on radio observations of the most massive gravitationally bound structures in the Universe – galaxy clusters – in order to study them as the largest “particle accelerators” in nature. Very interested in the development of low-frequency radio astronomy in France, she plays a structuring role within the national community, with a particular focus in the development of the Square Kilometre Array. Today, after her appointment in 2018 as Director of « Maison SKA-France », she has an intense activity with the academic and industrial world aiming at structuring the French contribution to the SKA at the scientific and technological level to make the case for France to become a member of the SKA Observatory. Since 2018, when the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) joined the SKA Organisation as a special member, she is the French scientific representative in the SKA Board of Directors. In 2020, Chiara Ferrari has been elected Chair of the European SKA Forum, a platform to promote joint European SKA-related initiatives in view of the beginning of the SKA Observatory construction.

  • Daan du Toit
    Daan du Toit
    Department of Science and Innovation South Africa

    Daan du Toit started his career in the South African Government with the then Department of Foreign Affairs where he trained as a diplomat. Since 2002 he has been attached to the Department of Science and Innovation, where he has notably served as the Department’s representative in Europe, based in Brussels. In 2014 he was appointed as Deputy Director-General responsible for the portfolio International Cooperation and Resources.

    Over the years Daan had the privilege to contribute to multiple initiatives in support of a diverse and rich international partnership portfolio for South African science, technology and innovation. He for example played a central role in the establishment and management of the European-South African Science and Technology Advancement Programme (ESASTAP.)

    Daan has represented South Africa in diverse multilateral forums such as the OECD’s Global Science Forum, the Group on Earth Observations and the BRICS partnership, as well as in various structures related to African regional and continental cooperation of the African Union and the South African Development Community.

    In addition to being a member of the Department of Science and Innovation’s Executive, Daan currently chairs the Strategy and Business Development Committee of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) global radio telescope project.

  • Kristine Spekkens
    Kristine Spekkens
    Professor, Department of Physics and Space Science, Royal Military College of Canada Cross-Appointed, Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy, Queen's University at Kingston Canadian Science Director, Square Kilometre Array

    Dr. Kristine Spekkens is a professor in the Department of Physics and Space Science at the Royal Military College and in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy at Queen’s University, both located in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. She leads a research group focussed on understanding the structure and evolution of nearby galaxies through deep multi-wavelength observations, and is particularly interested in using their gas morphologies and kinematics as a cosmological probe. She is an active member of next-generation atomic gas survey teams on SKA precursor facilities, most notably the WALLABY survey on ASKAP within which she chairs a software development technical working group and sits on its executive committee.

    Kristine’s involvement in the SKA project began as a member of the Science and Engineering Advisory Committee from 2017-2019 before being named Canadian SKA Science Director in 2019. On the technical side, Kristine is a co-investigator in the Canadian Initiative for Radio Astronomy Data Analysis (CIRADA), which is laying some of the computational groundwork for a Canadian SKA Regional Centre. Kristine is also actively engaged in equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives in Canada, and is the chair of the Equity and Inclusivity Committee of the Canadian Astronomical Society.

  • Lourdes Verdes Montenegro
    Lourdes Verdes Montenegro
    Radio astronomer at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC), Coordinator of the Spanish participation in the SKA project

    Lourdes Verdes-Montenegro is a researcher focused on the multifrequency analysis of the evolution of galaxies and their environments, with special emphasis in the study of atomic gas (HI). She has been Chair of the Panel Universe for the European Research Council Starting Grants and is member of the Inclusiveness and Women in Science group within AERAP. Since 2011 she coordinates the Spanish scientific and technological participation in the SKA, and as result Spain joined the SKA Organisation in June 2018. She has been designated by the Ministry as the Spanish Science Director in the SKA Board and is the Spanish representative in the SKA Regional Centre Steering Committee. She has also been Co-chair of the SKA HI Science Working Group, member of the Board of the consortium for the design of the SKA Science Data Processor and of the SKA Regional Centre Coordination Group.

    Since 2003 she leads a scientifically active group of astronomers and software engineers, pioneers in e-Science developments applied to radioastronomy and scientific reproducibility. In 2007 she led the first bottom-up e-Science initiative in Spain, the “e-CA: e-Ciencia Andaluza” Excellence project, that brought together more than 140 Andalusian interdisciplinary groups. In 2009 she was invited to present e-CA at the UK e-Science Annual Meeting and in 2011 was one of the four invited speakers to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the UK e-Science Program. Based on this expertise, she was invited to Chair the “RadioNet review panel for Apertif archive”, and is member of the Spanish committee for Unique Scientific and Technical Infrastructures as well as Vice-Chair of the Radioastronomy Infrastructures Group of the Spanish Astronomy Infrastructure Network. Currently she coordinates the development of a Prototype SKA Regional Centre at the IAA Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence (CSIC) in Spain, fully engaged with Open Science principles.

  • Philip Diamond
    Philip Diamond
    Director General, SKA

    Professor Philip Diamond is the Director-General of the SKA (Square Kilometre Array). He was appointed to this position in October 2012 and is leading the team designing and constructing the SKA, which, when completed, will be the largest scientific project on Earth.
    From 2010 – 2012, Phil was the Chief of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS), which operates the major radio astronomy facilities in Australia. Prior to that (2006 – 2010) he was the Director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester in the UK. The University owns and operates the giant Lovell Telescope and, on behalf of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, the e- MERLIN/VLBI National Facility. Phil was responsible for the operation of both facilities.
    Phil completed his PhD at the University of Manchester in 1982. He worked at the Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden (1982–1984) and the Max-Planck Institute for Radioastronomy in Bonn, Germany (1984 – 1986) before moving to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in the USA for 12 years (1987 – 1999). He held the position of Deputy Director of the NRAO’s VLA and VLBA before moving back to the UK in 1999 upon being appointed as the Director of MERLIN (1999 – 2006).
    Phil’s research interests include studies of star birth and death; exploring both through the use of radio interferometers such as MERLIN. He is also interested in high resolution studies of supernovae, both in our own Galaxy and in others. Finally, he also dabbles in studies of discs of molecular gas rotating around super-massive black-holes at the centres of other galaxies. He has published ~300 research papers in astronomy.

  • Thijs Geurts
    Thijs Geurts
    Senior External Relations Policy Advisor, SKA Organisation

    Thijs Geurts started his career in the Dutch Government with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science where he took up various roles in international cooperation and bilateral as well as multilateral relationships. Since 2010 he has been heavily involved in the negotiations around the European Framework Programmes like Horizon 2020 and spend much time representing the Netherlands in Brussels.
    In 2012 he undertook a one-year-secondment in the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to build up bilateral scientific relations with emerging science nations like Brazil, South Africa and China.
    Thijs has represented the Netherlands in diverse multilateral forums. As of 2015 Thijs represented the Netherlands in the SKA Convention negotiations and played a leading role in the ratification of the SKA Convention by the Netherlands which was successfully completed in 2019. He is now seconded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the SKA Organisation HQ where he now acts as Senior External Relations Policy Officer within the strategy-team of SKA.

  • William Garnier
    William Garnier
    Director of Communications, Outreach and Education at the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation.

    William Garnier is Director of Communications, Outreach and Education at the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Organisation. In his position, William is in charge of developing and delivering the overarching SKA Communications and Outreach strategy for the project. William is coordinating a network of communications experts across the SKA partnership to ensure alignment and effective coordination of communications activities.
    William has been working in the science communication field for over 18 years and is experienced in crafting and delivering communications strategies in complex, challenging and politically sensitive environments. He first started as a freelance journalist in France and then as a science communicator in major international astronomy organisations. After 2 years at the ESO (European Southern Observatory) headquarters in Chile, he set up and led the communications department of the world’s largest radio telescope, ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) in 2007. In November 2012, William accepted the challenge to lead the global communications effort of one of the greatest scientific enterprises of the 21st century: the SKA telescope.
    In his capacity, William led and coordinated countless highly successful multi-media multi-channel communications campaigns, leveraging developments (on the science, engineering, corporate, or societal front) and seizing upon opportunities to deliver positive outcomes. One of the projects he is particularly proud of and that he co-initiated is the implementation of an educational programme in a rural and remote village close to the telescope site in Northern Chile, which had a tremendous impact locally not only on the students involved in the programme but on the entire population, acting as a real boost for the local development.

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