15 February 2016

Public statement - Advanced LIGO

By Cathy Foley, Science Director, CSIRO Manufacturing

On Friday, along with scientists around the world, CSIRO was thrilled to celebrate the part we played in this momentous scientific achievement. I was disappointed to read articles stating that CSIRO will have no capacity to play a role in this type of work in the future. This is simply untrue.

Our contribution to Advanced LIGO – the observatory  responsible for detecting the elusive waves – was in coating many of the optics. The coatings, which were developed and applied at our labs in Sydney, are among the most uniform and precise ever made. Despite what the articles state, we still have metrology capability and all of our gold coatings infrastructure. In fact Caltech, which leads the optics work for Advanced LIGO, is visiting CSIRO this week to progress some further work together. This is because CSIRO is one of the only research groups in the world who can do these coatings to this level of precision.

It is true that CSIRO reduced our polishing capability last year. We didn’t do any of the polishing work on Advanced LIGO, so to draw a direct link between the two is misleading. We have also made some reductions to the coating team, but have retained our core capability and continue to deliver on our projects.

I was delighted to attend the celebration at Parliament House on Friday with three of my CSIRO colleagues who were directly involved in the LIGO project. To claim that we’ve ‘axed’ all of these people, is both untrue and unfair to these individuals and the contribution they’ve made to advance our knowledge of the Universe.

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