By attracting a diverse team of world-class researchers and collaborating with other leading institutions, ICRAR has grown into an internationally-renowned centre of astronomy research in just five years. We currently employ over 100 staff and are training over 80 graduate students across our two nodes (Curtin and UWA).
Our research activities are divided into three overarching programs: Science; Technology and Engineering; and Data Intensive Astronomy.Much of ICRAR’s work revolves around science associated with the Square Kilometre Array and its precursors.
ICRAR’s science program is based on the instinctive human endeavour to understand more about the nature of everything around us. Making sense of the information from new generation telescopes such as the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and Square Kilometre Array (SKA) will vastly expand our view and understanding of the Universe.
ICRAR’s engineering program is supported by team members with specialisations in antenna design, digital signal processing, electromagnetic compatibility and radio-frequency systems. The program is integral to ICRAR’s aim to participate in the end-to-end design, construction, data processing and science extraction for the SKA. Our broad and world-class capabilities in both radio astronomy and engineering have been demonstrated through the successful delivery of the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) and SKA verification systems. These engineering feats are now guiding the SKA’s low-frequency design.
Data Intensive Astronomy
To secure and support the SKA, it was critical for Western Australia to establish world-class Information and Communication Technology capabilities. Prior to 2014, ICRAR’s ICT program focused on developing core capabilities through development of a Data Intensive Research Pathfinder, Conceptual Design Studies for the SKA and High Performance Computing (supercomputing). ICRAR’s ICT program evolved into the Data Intensive Astronomy program in 2015, focused on developing the data management and processing infrastructure for the SKA.
The current DIA program has two high level core roles. The first one is to design and implement data flow and data processing management organisations and systems to enable astronomical data analysis on massive, SKA scale data sets. This is more generic than just working towards the SKA as it also includes precursor, pathfinder and other data sets, like from ASKAP, JVLA, ATCA and MWA. This role is mostly technical in nature, but, due to the extreme data volumes, also includes research in computer science, software engineering and machine learning.
The second role is to support current and future science projects within the ICRAR Science Program with a focus on large-scale survey projects posing similar problems as the anticipated SKA key science projects and aligned with the decadal plan for Australian astronomy.
Learn more about our Data Intensive Astronomy Program
Translation and Impact
ICRAR has had ten years of growth and consolidation. It has built world class expertise in research, training, collaboration with academia and industry, engaging with multiple partners and stakeholders, taking on big problems and finding innovative solutions, and sharing the outcomes of its research and activities with the wider community. To date this wider outcome has been accomplished by the core team of ICRAR. ICRAR now is on the threshold of bigger opportunities with
the signing of the SKA IGO and with that the SKA project will progress at full steam with commitments from involved Governments.
Since its inception in 2009 the ICRAR program has been focused on contributing to and preparing for the SKA. The SKA is a complex, multi-disciplinary, multi-generational project and this is reflected in every aspect of ICRAR’s make-up and program. Everything from the composition of the group through to the nature of the activities they are engaged in, reflect ICRAR’s raison d’être of ensuring that Western Australia and Australia have impact in and benefit from the SKA.
Recognising that the promise of the SKA could only be realised through close collaboration between science and engineering (including ICT engineering), ICRAR was established as one of a handful of international astronomy institutes to have an embedded engineering capability. The engineering team at ICRAR works closely with radio astronomers, including senior proponents of SKA KSPs, to ensure that they maintain the appropriate context, focus and priorities.
ICRAR has played a critical role in SKA preconstruction to date. The strategic and end-to-end system insights gleaned from the experience of constructing and operating the MWA allowed ICRAR to formulate a holistic pre-construction work program. This approach has paid handsome dividends and seen ICRAR rise to considerable prominence in many areas of the international project.
Being an organisation with an identifiable and unambiguous focus has been a significant factor in ICRAR’s record of successful engagement with all classes of stakeholders. ICRAR has leveraged a relatively high level of general awareness of astronomy (across most stakeholder demographics), and ‘brand recognition’ for specific activities like the MWA and SKA, into long term and mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders in the Government, Industry, Community and Research sectors. To consolidate the existing relationships and opportunities and to ensure that ICRAR takes full advantage of new opportunities to build a long term sustainable future, ICRAR has created a new, “the Translation and Impact program” (TI) at both ICRAR nodes that will be focussed on key strengths at each node.