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Nobody wants $1.2 million to run Chinese radio telescope

Staff Writer | August 7, 2017
China is offering more than $1.2 million to hire a foreign astronomer to run the world’s largest radio telescope, but is struggling to find applicants.
Chinese radio telescope
Science   The largest single-dish radio telescope
Fast, the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, is looking for a chief scientist from overseas to oversee the daily operation of the 1.2-billion yuan ($178 million) facility, South China Morning post reports.

Over the last few months, it encountered unexpected difficulties in finding a qualified, willing candidate as the job faces many challenges, according to people involved in the hiring process.

Whoever becomes Fast’s director of scientific operation would receive a financial package consisting of eight million yuan research funding, a salary comparable with such a role in Western countries and numerous subsidies, such as free housing.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences, which owns the telescope, looked overseas for an operator-in-chief because no astronomer at home had the experience of running a facility of a similar scale and complexity.

“The post is currently open to scientists working outside China only. Candidates can be of any nationality, any race,” said a human resources official at the academy’s bureau of personnel, who was involved in the hiring process.

A hiring notice was put up on the academy’s website in May. Advertisements were also placed on major international research job bulletins and senior scientists in research communities helped spread the message by word of mouth, according to the official.

“We cannot wait. We have also reached out to qualified scientists around the world through formal or private channels. These senior researchers do not browse job websites very often. We did everything possible to communicate to them our offer,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

“What can be said at this stage is that we have encountered many challenges, and we are continuing with the efforts,” the official added.