SA holds breath as SKA decision looms

South Africa may find out on Friday whether it has won the bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).  
SA MAY find out today whether it has won the bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
The country is bidding against Australia to host the R23bn radio telescope.
Today the SKA Organisation, an international body, meets in Amsterdam to discuss the findings of a working group, convened last month and mandated to explore a more "inclusive approach" to the site decision. It is not certain that the SKA Organisation will make a decision on the site, but there is pressure from both SA and Australia, as well as organisation members, to do so.
Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor has called for a June decision "at the latest".
Earlier this month, SKA Organisation interim director-general Michiel van Haarlem, said: "The members could take a decision on May 25; it depends how the discussions go (about the scientific working group’s report). It is the members who ultimately have to take a decision and they have to agree as well — it will be a difficult task."
According to the articles of association of the SKA Organisation, a winning country requires 100% of votes in the first round of voting on the SKA decision. There are five voting countries: the UK, the Netherlands, China, Italy and Canada. If a country does not get all the votes, there is a second round of voting four to six weeks later.
In that round, a 75% majority is required for a site win. If there is still no decision, negotiations would ensue.
It is possible the working group has recommended that the SKA be split between SA and Australia.
"They’re (the SKA Organisation members) under a fair amount of pressure from governments involved, but also want to make sure they’re making the right decision," spokeswoman Jo Bowler said.
Much is at stake for the two countries, which have invested heavily in their bids to host the telescope. An "inclusive approach" could entail a split site, with SA and Australia sharing the telescope.
The SKA, which is only expected to be operational in 2024, will be the largest scientific instrument on earth, comprising thousands of radio antennas.
Source: Business Day


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