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The challenge

Understanding the universe

The continuing desire of humankind to grow our understanding of the universe and also to improve Australia’s connectivity with the international research community.

Our response

CSIRO's collaboration with the Five hundred metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST)

A section of the 500 metre Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST).

CSIRO was commissioned by NAOC to design, build and install FAST's primary multi-beam receiver, known as the 19-beam array receiver for L-band (19-beam receiver). The total project cost was $5.4 million. This included 15.6 full-time equivalent staff (FTE) working an estimated combined total of 18.3 FTE years. CSIRO received $3.74 million from NAOC for this project.

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) in Guizhou Province China, is the largest single dish radio telescope in the world following its completion in 2016. Broadly speaking, FAST will help to enhance our understanding of the interstellar medium (ISM) life cycle, cosmology, galaxy evolution, star formation and exoplanets.

The results

Exporting Australia's scientific knowledge and leveraging Australia's scientific assets and expanding networks

The greatest impact of CSIRO’s involvement with FAST is its ability to enhance an understanding of the universe and improve Australia's reputation and connections with the international research community. We estimate a total impact value of $19.4 million (present value) associated with:

  • NAOC contract revenue
  • Value of publications and citations
  • Human capital formation
  • Expanded scientific footprint (increased scientific and research exports)
  • An enhancement of Australian cultural value
  • Learning by doing

Additional qualitative benefits include:

  • Soft international diplomacy
  • More cost-effective science
  • Potential innovations taken up by industry to improve productivity

The net present value of CSIRO’s involvement with FAST is estimated to be $13.2 million over 20 years (2014-2034), with a benefit-cost ratio of 3.1. This considers capital expenditure costs and estimated operational (employee) costs. Unknown maintenance costs are not considered.

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