What do Australians think about in May? The changing weather – always a great topic if you happen to live in Melbourne, your football team’s early-season chances of a spot in the finals, and the rapidly approaching federal government budget. 

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Tomorrow will see the Abbott Government announce its first budget, an event of major national significance but one that is not expected to include any new pronouncements about the Australian Synchrotron, as our current funding goes through to June 2016.

The widespread impact of the research conducted by Australian Synchrotron users in areas ranging from biomedical research to mineral processing and advanced materials, has always received broad bipartisan support: Ministers from previous governments have been very positive about the Australian Synchrotron, and just a few weeks ago, the Synchrotron was excited to host a visit by the Minister for Industry, The Hon Ian Macfarlane. In releasing a statement congratulating the Australian Synchrotron on reaching its 20,000th research partnership, the Minister also congratulated the staff of the Australian Synchrotron "on the important contribution they are making to the country".  

We greatly appreciate the goodwill that has been expressed towards us by all sides of politics and we will continue to seek opportunities to demonstrate the benefits our users bring to the national research sector, Australian businesses and the general community.

Today, we celebrate the Synchrotron user community and supporters, with the release of our Research Highlights publication, for the period 2010 – 2012.

As scientists working in Australia, Synchrotron users and staff understand and actively pursue our professional obligation to communicate about the research we do. We talk to many different audiences about the importance of our research to Australia, the significance and potential value of synchrotron findings, and the benefits being realised through practical applications of our findings. 

Along with Research Highlights, this edition of Lightspeed features some fresh examples of the great science carried out by synchrotron users. You can read about the potential for an ornamental tobacco plant to help fight human cancers, how new insights into the human immune system could lead to better treatments for tuberculosis, inflammatory bowel disease and coeliac disease; and our plans to enable users to expand their knowledge of the intimate details of important chemical reactions.

There has never been a more important time for scientists in Australia to communicate the real, practical value of applying our expertise to the nation’s most important challenges. We have seen high-profile examples of this sort of communication from scientists such as Peter Doherty, Brian Schmidt and Suzanne Corey. But there is a role for all of us to play. Researchers who use the Australian Synchrotron have a great opportunity through their access to world-class infrastructure and we should not leave the communications task to just a few flag bearers. Australia needs you to speak out.

Andrew Peele
Director, Australian Synchrotron