Do you sometimes wish to have a big sister? A sister who fought the battles with the parents? An intimate, non-snitching friend?
BESSY – The big sister
It is not so much different for a light source than it is for you! Some lightsources have gathered experience over the years and some are still youngsters. They need to find their own way but sometimes it is a good idea to take a peek.
As a large scale facility, BESSY II serve scientific communities and provide expensive infrastructure to a huge number of international researchers. At BESSY II we welcome more than 3000 guests per year and our experience dates back to BESSY I, which started in the 1980ies. We provide 38 experimental stations to our users. Sure enough, there is never sufficient beamtime to accommodate the demand, at none of the light sources in Europe. So, a selection – solely based on the scientific merit of the proposed experiment – has to be made. This is done by an international committee of reviewers in a so-called Scientific Selection Panel and the procedure is rather complex. Starting from choosing the reviewers, organizing the review process, holding the panel meetings, collecting the results and making a beamtime calendar. 600 proposals, 60 reviewers, 400 beamtime campaigns – all this needs to be administered twice a year.
Playing the role of the big sister, BESSY II was delighted when the youngest sibling, the lightsource Solaris in Poland, joined the party. Solaris started user operation in 2018, with 2 beamlines and it is growing. So why not copy the good things, improve the not so good ones and adapt proven methods? In this spirit of exchange programmes within CALIPSOplus, Alicja Górkiewicz, the user coordination officer from Solaris joined the Scientific Selection Panel Meeting (SSP) in October 2018 at BESSY II for a few days.
There was time to discuss procedures before and after the SSP, to talk about the role of user coordination, duties, tasks, and the fun of it. During the 1 and a half day long SSP Alicja joined the general parts with all reviewers together and the social events. But even more importantly she participated in one of the colleges, discussing and assessing the beamtime proposals. There are 8 colleges, each one dedicated to a scientific field or group of fields to facilitate an intense and profound discussion of every proposal. This gave an Alicja the possibility to follow the discussions, see the recording of the results and familiarise herself with the whole sequence of a proposal process; especially since she could choose the college closest to the expected science at Solaris.
Except for gaining experience and from “learning-by-doing”, networking plays an important role, too. The wonderful news is, that some of our reviewers stated that they are very happy to also contribute to a panel at Solaris, in particular, since the work of a reviewer is on a voluntary basis and unpaid.
And a second delightful outcome of this exchange is an intensified cooperation between Solaris and BESSY II, which will manifest itself in a return visit to discuss administrative procedures and their programming related implementation together with IT staff and programmers for both facilities, which will take place in a few weeks from now.
Well, sometimes the big sister is envious and also proud, that the young kid can fall back on her long-standing experience, find its own way and possibly make it even better.
SOLARIS – The little sister
Solaris is the youngest synchrotron in Europe. You can easily imagine how hard it was at the beginning when all the adult synchrotrons looked down on it and took it with a pinch of salt. And it is not so easy to prove that we are growing up when we have only two working beamlines and our older brothers and sisters have already at least a few of them.
We were lucky to have an older brother – Max IV – who instructed us at the very beginning how to play with the new synchrotron toys which were built in Poland in 2015.
Being the youngest sibling has also precious privileges: you can ask simple questions about basic stuff and the adults try not to laugh at you and calmly explain the issue. I must confess that when in 2017 I become a manager of the project of establishing the User Office in the first Polish synchrotron I felt a little bit lost, so being the youngest turned out to be very helpful.
Not only our synchrotron was built from scratch – but also all the procedures of applying for beamtime at SOLARIS needed to be compatible and fitted to the new research infrastructure. Also, in this case, cooperation with older siblings has been priceless. Joining the CALIPSOplus program was a real milestone for SOLARIS – I received a lot of advice, templates of many useful documents and support. Thinking about people from all Europe, working for CALIPSOplus project, I have a feeling that they are all my fellow workers.
Also thanks to CALIPSOplus I got the possibility to visit BESSY II, our big sister from Berlin. I was lucky to come there during the Scientific Selection Panel (SSP) Meeting in October 2018. I had a chance not only to talk with the people from user office but also with the participants of SSP who are very experienced, and luckily also very talkative, synchrotron users. Thanks to them I had learned what are the basic needs of an average user coming to synchrotron to perform the experiment.
I was especially amazed by the GATE system which not only allows users to submit their proposals but also supports the whole process of the evaluation, informing of the results and establishing the calendar for each beamline. Users from BESSY II confirm that the GATE system is the best online platform for synchrotron users. At SOLARIS, we also have a similar toy called DUO (Digital User Office) but it is much smaller than the GATE and does not have so many features. I think that it is unfair that only the older sibling always has to have the best toys! Then I invited the IT specialists from BESSY II who are responsible for the GATE to SOLARIS. They are going to come to Kraków in April and teach us how to improve our toys.
European Synchrotrons Family is a strong group of high-tech research infrastructures, helpful and supportive to each other. Sometimes there are fights and misunderstandings, like in the ordinary family, but the most important is the fact that we are still learning to cooperate for the development of science.
© Report and photograph by Antje Vollmer (HZB), Alicja Górkiewicz (SOLARIS)and Beatrix-Kamelia Seidlhofer (HZB)