After spending more time than what I would consider safe or healthy working at the UK’s number one (mainly because its the only one) synchrotron I have come to the conclusion that the uk science sector erm group erm lot have got a bad case of the emperor’s new clothes syndrome.

Now you may be wondering on what basis am I making this bold claim and also what am I talking about.

Well the basis is that something odd happened many, many years ago. The odd thing was that the small molecule community stopped publically discussing issues and instead kept them to themselves only to whisper them in darkended rooms when too much or too little alcohol had been flowing.

This all happened when some politician decided that all of the science and all of the money should be kept in the south of England as it would mean less distance for important people to travel from London when they were being shown said things. This resulted in great facilities such as the SRS (Daresbury Laboratory, North) being closed down and the replacement facility not being built on solid bed rock like its predecessor but instead being built on clay in the south. So this terrible idea went a head and after that any other terrible ideas and the consequences thereof was kept very quiet.

In this particular story I am discussing the new home for small molecule crystallography in the UK Station I19. I say station but as with everything else I suspect that since Diamond has decided to rewrite the rules and try and avoid keeping any links, learning any lessons and anything thing else, other than assist strip, from the old SRS  then station should really be End Station or user beam access facility point? Either way it is crap.

Why is it crap?

Lots and lots of reason and the interesting thing is no one seems to want to say publicly it is crap. No one has bothered to make a note on a form to say erm, you know most of my samples die in the beam because it is too intense and did you know that on a 1 second exposure your high speed station is actually slower than a 1 second exposure on my home rotating anode. I say my home its not that is a turn of phrase - ignore and carry-on.

So when did it all turn to shit?

I don’t really know is the answer. I guess the moment that someone decided not to discuss the problems publicly and by doing that they have just propagated and festered and well now it is pretty much and very tiring trip to the south of England to be very unproductive for long periods of time.

Who can we blame?

No one really (well there are some who know damn well who they are, but) really it is not about blame it is about the community speaking out and saying:

  1. There is a problem

  2.  How can we help you resolve this problem

And with that all the time and resources required being given to the people in charge so that they can sort the problem out. Ironically I’m pretty certain they are aware of the problems but seem to be on a path of trying more and more complicated experiments trying to play catchup with the previous SMX stations or others from around the world and not sitting down and trying to just sort out the basics.

The basics being:

  • Background - reduce to as low as possible over as much as space as possible

  • Movement - reduce to a little as possible as long as possible

  • Stability - make it stable as in not all wiggly

  • Speed - make it fast, if it is not fast why not, where are the slow points?

  • Software -  format c: install Linux and just start again from scratch - if the performance of your software on your station is being compromised by the data management systems of the facility then sit down and work out a  different way of doing it. Don’t just shrug and say “company policy”!

Then and after that  go a head with your fancy experiments. I mean what is the point of doing a very hard experiment which you know will stress the heck out of the sample (crystal) when you know that the sample is being killed by being in the beam anyhow. The same sample which you studied in your “home” lab for two days from 100 to 480 K without any significant issues?

Now the interesting thing out of all this is that at the very, very beginning of the whole non-sense the people at Diamond were not going to build another small molecule station. The community outraged stood together and said “NO we need it” - so why can they not do the same, why can’t they now say. OK you have had enough time - we need this sorting out. If you need 6 months down time with no users to get your shit together then we can give you it if you promise that after six months when we do come back that it is sorted and not a little bit sorted but completely sorted so it is like good!

So until then we will keep plodding on………..making carbon out of our lovely single crystals.

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