Chile and China embark on ‘milestone’ joint research project

Joint astronomy research center in Santiago could be just the beginning of a new science and technology partnership

Preparations are well under way for an exciting new joint research project by two fast-growing countries with strong mutual interests. Chile and China recently pledged an annual fund of US $3 million dollars— to be implemented from 2014 —  for joint training and research projects.

The enterprise will see far-reaching collaboration between Chile’s National Commission for Scientific Technological Research (Conicyt) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

Conicyt President Mateo Budinich said the move represented a key moment in the relationship between the two countries.

“This is one of the most important milestones of Sino-Chilean cooperation in science and technology ever obtained,” said Budinich. The Conicyt president added that the bilateral fund is an innovation that could serve as an example for other international scientific partnerships.

The two countries also agreed to another unprecedented collaboration: establishing the Chile-China Joint Center for Astronomy (CCJCA) in Santiago, the first CAS scientific institution outside China. Initially, around 20 Chinese astronomers will be based in Chile with plans to expand the team further once the project is underway.

CAS president Bai Chunli described the significance of the new joint center.

“[The CCJCA is a] milestone that marks a major step forward in the collaboration in astronomy, and demonstrates our strong commitment to strengthen and expand existing collaboration,” said Chunli. «Astronomy is a starting point. Our collaboration can be extended to other fields. I am confident that our cooperation in astronomy will have a positive impact on our bilateral partnership in science and technology.»

Due to its arid climate and clear skies, Chile has cemented itself as the premier destination for astronomical research with over half of the world’s telescope infrastructure located in the Andean nation. According to Jiasheng Huang, head scientist of the binational project, the South American nation was the clear choice for a technological partnership.

“Chile is the capital of astronomy,” Huang told La Tercera. “China has been looking to further scientific and technological collaboration in South America for a long time and, despite the distance, Chile was was the best option for us.”