In 2018, ASTRON and JIVE initiated a new training programme called ‘Traineeship in Science Operations with Massive Arrays’, with the aim of sharing expertise in operating massive arrays ahead of next-generation world-class astronomy facilities such as the SKA. The first traineeship was held from 7 May – 27 July at the institute in Dwingeloo, The Netherlands, for two participants who both came from a SKA AVN partner country, Ghana. It was sponsored by ASTRON and the Joining Up Users for Maximising the Profile, the Innovation and the Necessary Globalisation of JIVE (JUMPING JIVE) project.

The 12-week traineeship programme was composed of 11 weeks of full exposure to the LOFAR system and operations, and one week of training in VLBI operations and science at JIVE. The trainees were given the opportunity to acquire expertise in operating LOFAR and the European VLBI Network (EVN) and develop skills required to operate next-generation astronomy facilities, e.g. the SKA. They were assigned mentors within the Science Support Teams at ASTRON and JIVE who taught them how to run complex LOFAR and EVN observing programmes and assist astronomers world-wide with their research.

Lectures covering various aspects of the operations of LOFAR were organised as part of the traineeship. In particular, the trainees obtained hands-on experience with raw LOFAR data through their participation in a workshop on developing automated LOFAR data quality control procedures.

The trainees were introduced to the central processing site (COBALT and CEP clusters) in Groningen as well as the JIVE SFX Correlator in Dwingeloo. Site visits to core LOFAR stations, the Long Term Archive (LTA) at SURFsara and the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope were also included in the traineeship.

The trainees had plenty of time to engage in daily interactions with scientists, engineers and support staff working at the institute. Their confidence grew quickly and by the end of the programme, they were leading daily meetings and activities to discuss various operational matters.

Comment from last year’s trainees: We cannot speak highly enough of the experience provided by the traineeship and in particular, the opportunity given to us to act as telescope scientists on duty and lead daily operational meetings and activities. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we recommend for every young radio astronomer.

The second edition of the traineeship happened during May 6 - July 26, 2019. The four participants were from Ghana, India, Germany and Zambia. The participants were taken through the same experiences as the first edition, and additionally had more exposure to LOFAR and EVN data analysis and handling.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic, the third edition which was planned for April 6 - June 26, 2020 has been postponed to a tententive date of April - July 2021 subject to the situation at the time. Three participants from the UK and Columbia are selected for the programme. 


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