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Canadian Institute for Synchrotron Radiation
Institut canadien du rayonnement synchrotron

History of CISR [1]


While the history of synchrotron radiation in Canada goes back to a 1972 workshop at the University of Western Ontario (now Western) organized by Bill McGowan on the uses of synchrotron radiation (SR), the push for a Canadian synchrotron gained momentum in 1990 when several countries were developing third-generation synchrotron radiation (SR) sources with smaller and brighter beams, particularly effective for protein crystallography.

That same year, 1990, Bruce Bigham of AECL took the initiative to establish the Canadian Institute for Synchrotron Radiation (CISR), a crucial player in coordinating the national effort. The initial directors of CISR included Michael Bancroft, Bruce Bigham, and Daryl Crozier. Notable contributors such as Ron Cavell, Adam Hitchcock, T.K. Sham, and Dennis Skopik also played prominent roles.

Initially, AECL and TRIUMF showed interest in designing and constructing the synchrotron ring. However, the Saskatchewan Accelerator Laboratory, led by Dennis Skopik, gained prominence in driving the Canadian SR facility's design. In October 1991, a funding proposal to NSERC for study funds was presented by CISR but was unfortunately turned down. Despite setbacks, CISR supported various Canadian initiatives at US synchrotrons in the early- and mid-1990s.

The tide began to turn in favor of a Canadian synchrotron when NSERC and its president, Peter Morand, expressed strong support. In 1994, an NSERC Committee on Materials Research Facilities recommended a Canadian SR source, however, securing funds for the approximately $100 million proposal was challenging. In 1994-1995, NSERC sponsored workshops to refine the machine design and beamlines, and in August 1995, a committee chaired by Alex McAuley was established to help CISR choose between two bids – one from the University of Saskatchewan and the other from the University of Western Ontario.

In June 1996, the NSERC committee recommended building the Canadian SR facility at the University of Saskatchewan. A joint proposal from the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Western Ontario was submitted to NSERC in September 1996.

Funding remained a significant challenge until 1997 when the federal government announced the creation of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) with $800 million for large university and hospital projects, including national initiatives like the CLS. In May 1998, the University of Saskatchewan submitted the CLS proposal to the CFI for $71.3 million, with significant financial and political support from various sources.

By March 31, 1999, the CFI committed to funding $56.4 million towards the $141 million CLS project. The University of Saskatchewan team had successfully raised $65.6 million from various sources and secured promises of operating funding totaling $8.6 million annually. The unprecedented collaboration among governments, universities, and industry in Canada was highlighted in the press announcement from Saskatoon on March 31, 1999. Eighteen Canadian universities endorsed the CLS project on behalf of over 300 SR users in the country, marking a significant achievement in the establishment of the CLS.

CISR “2.0”

Once the CLS became operational, in 2004, CISR began to decrease activities and ultimately became inactive, having achieved its primary goal of having a synchrotron radiation facility in Canada.

In 2021, as the CLS celebrated its 17th year of operations, discussions began regarding the long-term future of synchrotron science in Canada, and the need for a renewed CISR became apparent.

Motivated by ensuring that Canada keep pace with the needs of its scientific and industrial research communities, and that efforts to build new infrastructure or conduct major upgrades (to meet the growing demand from users) and developments in synchrotron radiation technology were coordinated at the national level, in December of 2021, 4 interim directors were appointed by original directors Mike Bancroft and Daryl Crozier: Serge Desgreniers (Ottawa), Ian Burgess (USask), Stefan Kycia (Guelph) and David Hawthorn (Waterloo), and CISR “2.0” was active.

Representing the national user community CISR’s new mandate is to advocate for synchrotron-based research in Canada, including:

  • advocating for support for the Canadian Light Source.

  • exploring prospects for infrastructure in other parts of Canada.

  • advocating for Canadian users of international facilities.

[1] Adapted with permission from Bancroft, G. M. (2004). The Canadian Light Source - History and scientific prospects. In Canadian Journal of Chemistry (Vol. 82, Issue 6, pp. 1028–1042). Canadian Science Publishing.

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