Interview with Alexander Ioffe

Alexander Ioffe, coordinator of the Polarised Neutrons JRA, is head at the Outstation JCNS-FRM II.

Alexander Ioffe

How did the idea for this JRA collaboration come up?

A collaboration on polarised neutron techniques was born over 10 years ago. It started within a European project called European Polarised Neutron Initiative – EPNI, which was organised and coordinated by Francis Tasset of the Institut Laue Languevin (ILL). This collaboration focused on two main topics: polarised neutrons and 3He neutron spin filters. Given the remarkable achievements of both topics, they resulted in two different JRAs: Eddy Lelievre-Berna became the coordinator of the Neutron Spin Filters JRA and I became the coordinator of the Polarised Neutron Techniques JRA.

What was it like coordinating collaboration between the different members of the JRA?

In 2004 it was the first time for this type of collaboration, so it took us some time to figure out how to work across facilities’ interests and make the best out of the limited resources provided by NMI3. The funding period finished in 2008 and we realised that the results were very positive; we therefore decided to continue with the JRA throughout the NMI3-FP7 phase of funding. Given that we had worked together before and already knew the capabilities of each partner, the collaboration within the new JRA ran smoothly and everyone was able to contribute to the different tasks.

What have you and the others involved learned from this collaboration?

Brainstorming among partners fostered a sort of synergy effect. All partners learned that by working together in a friendly atmosphere we could learn a lot and receive important feedback to build new ideas and projects. This atmosphere definitely encouraged creativity in our research projects and had a positive impact on the development of new instruments that are now under construction or already in use in several facilities.
It is a big challenge to prepare a proposal for a 5-year period; in research we often obtain negative results that are not less important than the positive ones. Indeed, proposals targeting new horizons are always risky. Not everything went as planned, some adjustments have been made on the way, and I appreciate very much the understanding of the European Commission with regards to this point.

What are the advantages of taking part in a project supported by NMI3?

While the financial support for such projects usually constitutes a small share of the resources required for completing a project, it actually helps to attract national resources. However, in my opinion, this is not the most important factor. NMI3’s support stimulates collaborations, creating a momentum to generate new ideas for our research projects and it has consequently produced results. This support also allows the continuation of previous collaboration. Particularly in our work, we are still benefiting from the work done within the EPNI project that I have mentioned before. We have achieved remarkable results but I think that the main impacts of this JRA will be visible in the long-term, when the ideas we have developed will be used for construction of new instruments.

What are the plans for your future research? Will you continue participating in this type of collaboration?

We decided not to continue this JRA during NMI3-II because we needed some time to look back on the work we have developed over the past 10 years, reflect about what has been done and think of new ideas for the future. The aim of the JRA was to provide connections, to initiate collaborations and these proved very successful. There is still space for new developments and I believe that the partners who are interested in collaborating will continue to do so. In the future, maybe in Horizon 2020, we might join efforts again to create a new polarised neutron JRA.