LENS Initiative Newsletter - Special Issue - Mar 2023

We are pleased to announce that Martin Müller (MLZ) has been appointed as the new Chair of the LENS Initiative, with Michel Kenzelmann (PSI) succeeding Martin as Vice Chair.

The changeover marks the end of Prof Robert McGreevy’s two-year term as Chair of LENS. During this time, Robert (ISIS) has overseen the growth and development of the network, and has done much to boost recognition of LENS as an important voice in Europe’s Research Infrastructure landscape.

We wish to express our sincere thanks to Robert for his time and commitment, and for sharing his wealth of expertise to advance the LENS network. We look forward to progressing the collaboration further under the direction of Martin and Michel.

Read on for Robert and Martin’s reflections on the past and future of European collaborations in neutron science.

Reflections from outgoing Chair, Robert McGreevy

As I come to the end of my term as Chair of LENS, I’ve realised that I am possibly the only person still involved who was also involved in the earliest formal European neutron collaborations. Well past my ‘sell by’ date you might justifiably say! I remember the user meeting at Risø in Denmark in the early 1990’s to prepare the proposal for the first transnational access (TNA) programme, in those days called the Large Installations Programme, and I was one of the first users to be supported. The next decade brought TNA programmes at more facilities, several collaborative R&D programmes, the formation of the Neutron Round Table as a forum for coordination, and the founding of ENSA.

In 2002, all of the EU-funded activities were brought together into a single programme – the Integrated Infrastructure Initiative for Neutrons and Muons (NMI3). Previous projects had been separate proposals which were in practice competitive, though the R&D priorities were agreed through the Round Table. Now we had to agree all of the priorities and the division of budgets ourselves. This was not easy! But after the hard discussions, and helped by a good allocation of funding, NMI3 and successor projects have since underpinned nearly two decades of high level of collaboration, both technical and political, between European neutron (and muon) sources. Sadly, and very unwisely in my view, the EU Commission then decided to move away from such integrated initiatives, despite their success. This led to the founding in 2019 of LENS, as a sort of continuation of the Neutron Round Table but without the underlying framework of EU projects.

Looking forward, it’s important to understand that the level of collaboration we now have, which succeeds because of the personal relationships that have developed, has been steadily built up over 30 years. It didn’t just appear, but it could disappear if we take it for granted. Collaboration requires work, but it’s worth it!

Looking ahead with incoming Chair, Martin Müller

The European Conference on Neutron Scattering (ECNS) has always been an important event to judge whether the European neutron researchers’ community is feeling well. The atmosphere may also give some hints as to where we will be in the future.

At a time of rising energy costs, a reduction in the number of European neutron sources may, at one time, have been regarded as a step in the right direction. However, as I write these lines just before this year’s ECNS, three of those sources are (for different reasons) not producing neutrons as planned. I am thus expecting many discussions at the conference on how we can improve both the reliability and the resilience of our neutron supply.

From many conversations over the last weeks, I have the impression that national neutron communities (in France, Spain, the Nordic countries and Germany – to name just a few) are looking into the possibility of quite powerful accelerator-based sources, which could be the first step in establishing a network of additional neutron sources in the years to come. If so, it will become even more important to coordinate our activities, and I believe that our collaborations within LENS are a cornerstone here. I also see a high potential of sustainably educating the next generations of neutron scatterers in Europe. Having just returned from the MATRAC School in Lund, where an enthusiastic bunch of materials science PhD students were tremendously impressed by the ESS (and by the expected synergies with a synchrotron radiation source next door!) I feel very optimistic for the future.

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