Science Infrastructure Needs Operational Funding: The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope

Ted Hsu
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UPDATE:I had a chance to  rise in the House and ask the Minister of Industry to provide this important operational funding:


Science requires an investment in infrastructure to build research facilities, but it also requires ongoing operational funding for those facilities. One ongoing challenge for research in Canada is to ensure that operational funds are made available to match our investment in research infrastructure.



Canada has some amazing long-term projects on the go right now, and it’s been exciting to learn about them. One project that I have learned about recently is the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT).

The JCMT, part of the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii, is the largest sumbillimetre-wavelength survey telescope in the world. The telescope has been funded jointly by the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands since the telescope was completed in 1987. Canada’s cumulative investment in the facility over nearly three decades is around $80 million and during this time Canadian astronomers have been using this important facility for their research.

The telescope is and will be a world-class facility until its planned successor comes on-line in 2019. Over the next five years, research can be continued on the JCMT at minimal expense. All that we need to do to ensure that Canadian astronomers have access to this telescope is to provide our portion (25%) of the operating budget of the JCMT. I’ve spoken to scientists who tell me that, with a pared-down bare-bones budget, this would cost Canada only about $700 000 per year.

We’ve spent $80 million developing and running this telescope, and we have benefited from its technology for nearly thirty years. I think it would be a shame for Canadian astronomers to lose access to this important tool because we cut off funding that is only a tiny fraction of what we have already invested.

That’s why I asked Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to consider using existing funds at both the Canadian Foundation for Innovation and the National Research Council to fund Canada’s portion of the operating costs for the JCMT. This modest allocation of funding would do much to advance Canadian research, and would be an excellent return on investment in scientific research.

I hope to see some funding for the JCMT in the federal budget which will come out on February 11!

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