The Year in Review
We are delighted to present to you this first Annual Report of the Australian Synchrotron. The 2007-08 year has been one of great change at the Australian Synchrotron, marked by the progress from construction and commissioning to the commencement of operations. This Report recognises with pride the contribution of those who designed, built and commissioned the facility and charts the course of what has turned out to be an outstandingly successful initial period of operation. We look forward to reporting to you in future years on what has been done to build on this auspicious start.

The 'Stakeholder' section of this Report outlines the financial contribution made by the many partners in this enterprise. Our grateful thanks go to all those who contributed capital funds to the national partnership, initiated by Victoria and in this first year of operations, we particularly recognise the role of the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments which have each contributed $50 million to fund the initial five years of the facility's operations.

The Australian Synchrotron formally entered the scientific world on 31 July 2007, being officially opened by the Premier of Victoria, The Hon John Brumby, and the then Federal Minister for Education, Science and Training, The Hon Julie Bishop.

This launch followed a highly successful project, marked by a record breaking 'construction' phase coupled with broad national financial support. It has been a year of rapid change, with the Australian Synchrotron moving from a Victorian managed project to a national operating science facility, managed on behalf of the Australian and New Zealand stakeholders under a corporate governance structure.

As set out in the Corporate structure and governance section, the two companies established on behalf of the stakeholders to hold the synchrotron assets (ASHCo) and operate the facility (ASCo), came into being in July 2007. Following a period of due diligence, control of the facility passed from the Victorian Government to the companies on 1 November 2007. As the final step in this changeover the staff of the Australian Synchrotron transferred to ASCo on 1 May 2008.

Significantly, the Australian Synchrotron was finished on budget and the core facility has operated at the capacity of a mature facility in its first full year of operation, ahead of schedule by nearly two years. The Australian Synchrotron is now one of fifteen third generation instruments operating across the globe and its performance has proved to be exceptional by world standards. The accelerator, the heart of the instrument, now consistently generates more than 98% light beam availability and places the facility in the top five performing machines worldwide.

Among the main beneficiaries of this excellent performance are the scientists and engineers who utilise the quality light through the nine beamlines that have been, or are being, constructed around the ring. Formerly, these scientists had to endure the rigours of 'suitcase science' to carry out their synchrotron experiments. While excellent science was done in short one to three day international trips to overseas synchrotrons, the limited access to the synchrotrons and the pressure on, and sometimes loss of, delicate experimental samples meant that this approach under the Australian Synchrotron Research Programme (ASRP) could not continue to satisfy demand. Now the Australian Synchrotron allows them to undertake more scientific work and be close to home.

Four beamlines are now fully operational with full user programs in place and a further five beamlines will run through the experienced user cycle before moving to open access. This will bring the total number to nine beamlines by 2009, providing an excellent platform to service the needs of the scientific community and to engage with industry.

Use of the facility by the scientific community continues to grow with consistently more applications for beamtime than is available. As at 30 June 2008 over 325 scientists from 32 institutions in Australia and New Zealand had accessed the facility through 600 user visits, even while the facility was operating at only 15% capacity during the construction and commissioning phases. An exceptionally broad range of users from chemists through to mineralogists and physicists to biomedical scientists and forensic investigators have been engaged with this facility. Crossdisciplinary research has become a reality at the Australian Synchrotron.

Outstanding science is already taking place at the Australian Synchrotron. Examples of this are set out later in this Report in the Scientific Overview and Turning Bright Ideas into Brilliant Outcomes sections. A key to the future development of science at the facility is the 'Decadal Plan' developed in 2007 with the science community. The experience gained from 15 years under the ASRP has been used as a foundation for guiding the development of the facility.

Productive relationships have been established with key partners, including consortia members, international agencies and the community of world scientists. Scientists now come from every state of Australia and New Zealand to use the synchrotron. A number of initiatives have been undertaken this financial year to ensure that scientific partnerships, user interactions and community and industry engagement remain at the forefront of activity.

These initiatives include:

  • The Science Advisory Committee to the Board, which includes four synchrotron facility directors, was established to provide strategic advice on current and proposed scientific programs

  • International research groups began to access the Australian Synchrotron facilities in April 2008

  • A number of memorandums of understanding (MOU) have been signed with international agencies. These facilitate the exchange of personnel and scientific and technical collaboration with international synchrotrons and major science facilities

  • Community engagement was encouraged, with approximately 600 visits per month

  • An open day for the community and friends of the Australian Synchrotron was held in August 2007 to thank workers and others for their contribution to the completion of the project

  • In December 2007 more than 350 people attended the annual meeting of synchrotron users and took the opportunity to tour the facility and meet with staff

  • The Australian Synchrotron was also the launching point for the Victorian Government's Community Cabinet in April 2008, with the Australian Synchrotron hosting a tour of the facility for State Ministers

  • Major educational initiatives for 2007-08 have included: An Accelerator Science School and workshop was hosted in March 2008 with invited lecturers from Stanford, Shanghai and CERN; The bilateral Australian Shanghai Synchrotron Workshop held in May 2008

  • A virtual beamline has been developed to give school students web access to experiments designed and operated at Australian Synchrotron.

Most significantly, in its short history, the Australian Synchrotron and its staff have already received awards, including:

  • The Australian Synchrotron Research Program Thesis Medal for research excellence was awarded in 2007 to Australian Synchrotron scientist Martin de Jonge for the most outstanding thesis under the auspices of an Australian University

  • Gold Medal status, awarded in June 2008, for its approach to risk management following an independent survey of onsite risks at this facility conducted by the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA)

  • The Safety Scheme of the Year Award presented at the 5th annual national Manufacturers' Monthly Endeavour Awards ceremony for its Personnel Safety System (PSS).

These are just a few key highlights. What follows in the Report is a more detailed overview of the 'start up' phase for the Australian Synchrotron. Without doubt, the Australian Synchrotron is rapidly becoming a recognised centre for national multi-disciplinary scientific research providing excellent facilities to lead us into the future.

Professor Robert Lamb,
Facility Director

Catherine Walter AM,

To download a copy of the Australian Synchrotron Annual Report 2008, click here (pdf, 2.4 MB).