The International Conference on Neutron Scattering 2013 in Edinburgh

ICNS2013. Photo by Uschi Steigenberger.

The International Conference on Neutron Scattering (ICNS) took place from 8 – 12 July 2013 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the 9th conference of this series. ICNS2013 brought together approximately 800 scientists from 34 different countries who took the opportunity to present high-quality science and to discuss and develop ideas for exciting new work.

The conference was universally acknowledged to have been a great success. The venue was the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, ideally located close to many hotels and restaurants.  Throughout the week, the weather was astonishingly good so the umbrellas supplied in the delegate bags remained unused.

Welcome to Edinburgh and to ICNS

In the opening ceremony, the organising committee chaired by Keith McEwen (London Centre for Nanotechnology, UCL) and his colleagues Paul Attfield (University of Edinburgh), Jon Goff (Royal Holloway, University of London), and Paolo Radaelli (University of Oxford) welcomed everyone to the lovely city of Edinburgh, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Adding a taste of history, Andrew Harrison, Director of the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL), told us about the important contributions of Scotland and its universities to the scientific world.

The delegates were invited to visit the 50 exhibitors present at ICNS2013. These included the principal neutron research facilities from all over the world, together with companies providing a wide range of neutron-related products.  Thanks to the sponsorship of the exhibitors, the conference fees could be kept at a reasonable price, with a large discount for students.

Keith McEwen + Lord Provost of Edinburgh (Donald Wilson) at the Opening Reception at Our Dynamic Earth. Photo by Uschi Steigenberger.

ICNS delegates at the Opening Reception - Je–Geun Park (Seoul); Helmut Schober (ILL, Grenoble); Wei Bao (Beijing); Christian Ruegg (PSI, Switzerland)). Photo by Uschi Steigenberger.

The ICNS Organising Committee – Paolo Radaelli, Paul Attfield, Jon Goff, Keith McEwen. Photo by Uschi Steigenberger.

High Quality Science

Many talks and posters were presented at ICNS2013 on a wide variety of fields where neutrons are triggering important scientific discoveries. The sessions addressed issues such as the structures of diverse materials, magnetism, neutron instrumentation, biology, geosciences, engineering, energy research and cultural heritage, including interesting presentations and plenary talks by researchers from universities and research centres.  Speakers from UCL included Neal Skipper and Christoph Salzmann, who gave invited talks on The Structure of Nanocarbons in Solution by Neutron Scattering and The Polymorphism of Ice, respectively. During the poster sessions and coffee breaks the corridors of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre exuded a vibrant atmosphere where the participants took part in interesting discussions.

Aside from the conference, delegates could also participate in nine workshops and satellite meetings organised to foster understanding on techniques and instruments, and also to provide space for brainstorming about new collaborations and projects. These meetings and workshops addressed not only scientific topics such as neutron optics, detectors, polarised neutrons, dynamics, resonant elastic X-ray scattering, magnetism, and neutron scattering at extreme conditions, but they were also an opportunity to discuss the future of the European Spallation Source (ESS), the impact of neutron research and how to disseminate it, as well as ways of enhancing collaboration between research facilities and industry.

Prizes Ceremony

Neutron scientists worldwide achieve important results everyday contributing to fundamental developments in many fields. The organising committee and the session chairs selected a total of 17 posters presented at ICNS2013 for prizes sponsored by the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council.   And because the future of neutron research depends on the next generation of scientists, the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) awarded the “Young Scientists Prize” to Elisa Wheeler from ILL for her work on “Probing the magnetic excitations of frustrated spinels”, which was considered the best piece of research underpinned by crystallography. 

The “AONSA Prize” recognises outstanding research careers with a significant impact or contribution to the use or development of neutron science or technology in the Asia-Oceania Region. This year the prize was awarded to Balebail Anantha Dasannacharya, retired from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in India, “for his pioneering contributions to neutron scattering in the Asia-Oceania region, through his early development of neutron spectroscopy and its applications for the dynamics in low-temperature liquids and molecular solids, and his active promotion of regional and international science as well as the national user program in India.” In his prize lecture, Dasannacharya discussed the history and status of neutron scattering in India and the Asia-Oceania Region since he started his career in 1958, and also shared his own experience and interesting results.

The European Neutron Scattering Association (ENSA) also took the opportunity to present two prizes in Edinburgh. Together with the European Crystallographic Association (ECA), it awarded the Erwin Felix Lewy Bertaut Prize to Johan Chang from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, “in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the quest for understanding cuprate superconductors.” As for the Walter Hälg Prize, it was awarded to Joe Zaccai from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France, “in recognition of his pioneering contributions to the application of neutron scattering to a range of biophysical and biochemical problems in biology, which has provided important insights in the debate on the relationship between molecular structure and dynamics and biological function, and for his leading advocacy of the role of neutron scattering in biological research.” At ICNS, he gave a talk on “Neutrons and Life with a Pinch of Salt” where he explored the relationship between biology and neutron scattering and the efforts made by a number of scientists to strengthen the bonds between these two worlds.

Social Programme

The organisers arranged an excellent social programme, with the opening reception on the Monday evening at Our Dynamic Earth where the Lord Provost of Edinburgh welcomed delegates to the city.  The Scotch Malt Whisky Society provided a tasting of cask strength whiskies on the Tuesday evening, sponsored by the exhibitors.  On the Wednesday evening, a reception at Edinburgh Castle allowed the participants to explore this great landmark and to see the Scottish Crown Jewels. In a break with convention, the conference dinner was held on the Friday evening, allowing a full scientific programme on the last day of the conference.   The dinner was held in the splendid Victorian gothic setting of the National Museum of Scotland, and was followed by dancing to a céilidh band.

Tasting whiskies from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society at the Exhibitors' Reception. Photo by Uschi Steigenberger.

The conference dinner at the National Museum of Scotland. Photo by Uschi Steigenberger.

Closing session

The organisers of ICNS2013 introduced a number of innovations. The conference website was very comprehensive; for the first time there was an “app” with the conference programme and useful information that could be downloaded and used on iPads, iPhones and similar mobile devices; there were no proceedings so that the scientists were encouraged submit their high-quality papers to scientific journals; staggered invited talks allowed participants to attend all the talks they wished; and finally, as noted above, the conference dinner took place in the last evening.

Keith McEwen's closing summary of ICNS2013. Photo by Uschi Steigenberger.

The neutron world will continue to produce valuable results worth presenting and discussing, and the next international conferences are already planned and were announced in the closing session. The Spanish neutron scattering community will host the next European Conference on Neutron Scattering (ECNS) in September 2015 in Zaragoza. As for the next ICNS, it will be held in July 2017 in Daejeon, Korea.

To close the conference, Keith McEwen thanked his colleagues from the Organising Committee, together with the members of the Programme and International Advisory Committees, the assistants from the local Universities, and of course all the participants.  Finally, he thanked the team from the Institute of Physics who had looked after all the administrative and financial aspects of the conference.  This was undoubtedly a successful week of valuable exchange of ideas and cultures, fuelled by the traditional Scottish haggis and whisky.

Keith McEwen
Chairman of ICNS2013 Organising Committee