SAAO - South African Astronomical Observatory

SALT Collateral Benefits Programme

The SALT Collateral Benefits Programme (SCBP) was established during the construction of SALT and objectives of this programme were clearly directed at the benefits derived by society from building this large telescope. In October 2005, a month before the inauguration of SALT, Dr Clifford Nxomani, the manager of the SCBP Division at the SAAO, resigned. In January 2006, as the SAAO entered into the post-construction SALT era, Mr Kevin Govender was employed to replace Dr Nxomani. With the division under new leadership and with SALT moving from the construction to operational phase, the role and purpose of the SCBP became due for re-evaluation.

The new strategy was based a number of documents including the business plans of the previous SCBP, the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA). Recommendations made by Prof Diane Grayson in her evaluation of the SCBP (December 2005), together with responses from Dr Nxomani (March 2006), have also been taken into account.

At the outset, it must be made clear that this programme should always be seen as being owned by the staff of the whole of the SAAO (and thus SALT) and managed by the SCBP Division. One should not view the SCBP in isolation from the rest of the SAAO but rather a common ground which can be utilised by all staff that may have ideas or skills to contribute towards a common vision. As such, the strategy has been designed around the hope that it will motivate members of the SAAO staff to participate in carefully planned modularised projects on an ad hoc basis such that their primary activities at the SAAO are unaffected.

The big picture context: The ultimate benefit of this programme would be in terms of its use at other scientific institutions. If proven to be successful, this strategy could serve as a model that can readily be implemented at any science based institution in order to derive maximum benefit for society from their respective scientific activities.