Gravitational-wave Excellence through Alliance Training (GrEAT) Network with China

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Physics and Astronomy


The breakthrough discovery of gravitational waves (GW) - propagating distortions of space-time - by Advanced LIGO in 2015 confirmed the last major untested prediction of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. The announcement made headlines world-wide and further accelerated interest in GW research in China.

There is a significant opportunity for the UK GW leadership and expertise to play a major role in shaping the course of GW research in China. Our vision is to build a connected international network, enabling China to host the most-sensitive international GW detector. The UK has a proven track record in delivering high-quality technology/outreach activities relating to GW science, including the delivery of key subsystems for Advanced LIGO. The main impact of the proposed network will be to build up technical capacity and capability in China across a broad range of disciplines relating to the detection of GWs through the application of UK expertise. The proposed training network will be the first step in growing the GW community in China to the point where they can design, construct and run major research infrastructures in the form of GW detectors. The training network will also help the Chinese scientific community become a major international player in the emerging frontier of GW astronomy.

The proposed training network will bring together the UK GW consortium with eight universities in China, with whom members of the UK consortium have had initial contact. These eight universities are Beijing Normal University, Changchun University of Science and Technology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Hubei University of Education, Shandong University, Sun Yat-Sen University, Tonji University and Tsinghua University.

This training network aims to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals of Quality Education, Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, and Decent Work and Economic Growth. In addition to gravitational wave training activities, the training network will also organise workshops where UK GW teams can showcase their technologies to potential industry partners in China. Initial efforts have identified Shanghai Jillion, Nantong PRTT and the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi as possible multi-disciplinary, industry collaborators in China.

We will also promote STEM education through the development of resources suitable for both formal and informal learners - in the latter case, in particular, supporting the emergent plans for a Science Education Centre in China - and, building upon our extensive Education and Public Outreach leadership experience within LIGO Scientific Collaboration, producing high-impact exhibitions, multimedia, citizen science projects and online materials. We will also exploit our considerable experience on the steering group of the STFC-funded community outreach project Dark Sky Discovery (initially Dark Sky Scotland), adapting to the Chinese context the successful dark sky model for using basic astronomy to convey key messages to rural communities that have little science capital.

Planned Impact

The main impact of this grant will be to build up technical capacity and capability in China across a broad range of research disciplines relating to the detection of gravitational waves. The proposed training network will provide specialist, multidisciplinary training necessary for scientific communities in China to design, construct and run major research infrastructures in the form of gravitational wave detectors. This field is very wide in nature and the technologies required range from delicate mechanical instrumentation, through high and low power laser optics to signal processing and large data handling, and thus capacity built up from the work of this proposal will have wide application in China. The consortium behind this proposal has a strong and extensive track record in working with industry, in public outreach and school teacher CPD, all of which can be exported back to their home institutions by the visitors to the various groups in the UK. We have already identified potential industry partners in Shanghai Jillion and Nantong PRTT as well as collaborators for Big Data challenges in the form of the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi. There will also be great benefit to the UK consortium groups involved by having highly motivated and innovative visiting postdocs and graduate students contributing to both the depth and the volume of our gravitational wave research. Beneficiaries of the work will include the optics industry e.g companies such as Gooch and Housego in the UK and equivalent companies in the collaborating countries, enhancing capability in the area of manufacture of optical components for a large range of products; also the energy sector with spin off from the gravitational research in the form of MEMS gravimeters attracting significant industrial interest. We anticipate certain of our research spin-offs such as nanokicking being of particular interest application and impact wise to our visiting scientists. This involves the differentiation of human stem cells by mechanical excitation and the subsequent application to the grafting of human bones using stem cells from the host body. More globally as a spin-off from the Gravitational Waves work at Cardiff, a Data Innovation Institute has been established to conduct fundamental research into the aspects of managing, analysing and interpreting massive volumes of textual and numerical information with applications in the social, biological and engineering sciences, and experience of this by some of our visitors can be carried back to their home countries for potential implementation there in the future. The discovery of gravitational waves has led to a large increase in public outreach in the UK with many talks being given across the country every week. Feedback from these - often monitored by questionnaire - suggests that this activity coupled with schoolteacher CPD (in the form of videos, dedicated downloads etc) is very valuable to the effort to increase interest in STEM education across the country, and is again very portable by our visitors back to their home countries. Our outreach and impact activities are proving very effective for the training of our graduate students and early career researchers, as measured by their ever improving communication skills and industrial awareness, and we believe in this area we are ideally suited to help transfer these activities to China through the program proposed in this grant application.


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