Update on the Canadian Neutron Initiative and the “Neutrons@Mac” meeting

The gathering of researchers at McMaster University on May 17 was highly productive, and well attended with approximately 40 people in person and online, representing 12 universities from 4 provinces.

A key outcome was the statement of continued support for the Canadian Neutron Initiative (CNI), which follows below. In the subsequent online survey, CINS members were 80.5% in favour of the statement.

Although the CNI was not funded in the 2018 federal budget, we can build on the CNI’s momentum to realize the goal of establishing a new framework for leadership, management and funding of Canada’s capacity for materials research with neutron beams.

The statement also reflects two constructive ideas for moving forward:

First, CINS members wish to assist the CNI with securing some of the funds required for CNI’s 10-year vision through a multi-institutional CFI Innovation Fund application. This would for equipment to be located at foreign partner neutron sources and at the McMaster Nuclear Reactor.  An initial committee of CINS members representing McMaster, McGill, U. Toronto, and U. Winnipeg was struck to explore this idea further.

Second, there was strong agreement that all efforts toward the future need to be unified and pan-Canadian. There should be a single governance structure, representing multiple universities, for the future neutron beam program for Canada so that all activities will be coordinated. This includes the coordination of CNI’s efforts in Ottawa and at the provincial levels, the emerging neutron beam facilities at the McMaster Nuclear Reactor, and a CFI Innovation Fund application. With 16 supporting institutions from across Canada, the CNI working group is best positioned to determine the appropriate governance structure and to establish the needed multi-university organization. We have invited the CNI working group to undertake this critical task as a next step.

CINS Statement of Renewed Support for the Canadian Neutron Initiative Working Group (CNI)

Canada has been a world leader in neutron scattering for 70 years, since the pioneering Nobel-prize winning work of Bertram Brockhouse in the early 1950’s. Today, Canadian scientists use neutron beams for a wide range of applications, from understanding quantum materials to determining reliability of car engine parts.

In light of the loss of Canada’s major neutron source, the wind down of the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre, and the expiry of special access for Canadians at the Spallation Neutron Source in the USA, we remain committed to strive for a university-based, national program to maintain and expand the scientific resources Canada needs for materials research using neutron beams.

We strongly believe that at this critical moment, the continued leadership of the CNI is needed.

As it stands, Canada is now alone among developed nations without either a neutron beam laboratory, or formal arrangements for access to one, a situation which is embarrassing and intolerable.

Since 1986, CINS has advocated for Canadian capability for materials research using neutron beams. We see a future in which a broad base of Canadian scientists conduct their research using domestic and foreign facilities, train highly qualified people, and contribute to global advances in neutron beam techniques and instrument development. To achieve these goals, we must:

  1. Invest in scientific partnerships with foreign neutron beam laboratories, to secure sufficient beam time to meet Canadian needs for applications that require the brightest sources of neutrons.
  2. Upgrade the neutron beam capabilities of the McMaster Nuclear Reactor, our best remaining source for neutron beams in Canada, for a range of high demand capabilities that can be conducted at a medium-flux neutron source.
  3. Establish a domestic hub that facilitates access to neutron beam facilities for specialist, non-specialist, and new users alike, builds expertise and capabilities, keeping us at the forefront of research and technological development, and acts as the administrative centre for the national program.

We also need to make the science case for a major contribution to a new high-flux neutron source for the long-term, thereby re-establishing our position of leadership in the international community.

The Canadian Neutron Initiative is a plan to establish a new framework for leadership, management and funding of Canada’s capacity for materials research with neutron beams, building on existing national and international resources.

Our priorities are well aligned with the CNI’s efforts, and we appreciate and approve of the efforts that the CNI has put forward thus far. The CNI has received support from 16 organizations, and raised awareness of the need for a new framework with funding agencies and government decision-makers. The CNI has the necessary momentum and expertise to push forward and establish the needed national program constituted by a new university-based organization.

As representatives of the research community, we commit to supporting the CNI effort in any way possible. We foresee participating in competitions for funds that could be used to partially advance one or more of the above priorities, adding to the resources on which the CNI can build a holistic national program. We regard such efforts as a contribution to, rather than competition with, the CNI.

We propose that CINS work towards a multi-university, multi-disciplinary proposal for the next CFI Innovation Fund, which would be a significant contribution to the CNI’s decadal vision. CINS will invite universities to join the CNI working group, thereby ensuring coordination of efforts, further uniting our community and strengthening the governance of the CNI and of the university-based organization that emerges from it. We request the CNI help establish as appropriate governance structure for the future of neutron scattering for Canada.