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ICRANet structure, mission and activities Print E-mail

ICRANet, the International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics Network, is an international organization promoting research activities in relativistic astrophysics and related areas. Its members are four countries and three Universities and Research Centres. The members are the Republic of Armenia, the Federative Republic of Brazil, Italian Republic, the Vatican State, the University of Arizona (USA), Stanford University (USA) and ICRA. The headquarters is located in Pescara, Italy.

1. History of ICRANet foundation: ICRA and ICRANet

1.1. ICRA and ICRANet
In 1985, ICRA (International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics) was founded by Remo Ruffini (University of Rome "La Sapienza") together with Riccardo Giacconi (Nobel Prize for Physics 2002), Abdus Salam (Nobel Prize for Physics 1979), Paul Boynton (University of Washington), George Coyne (former director of the Vatican observatory), Francis Everitt (Stanford University), Fang Li-Zhi (University of Science and Technology of China).
The Establishment and the Statute of ICRANet were signed on March 19th, 2003 and recognized in the same year by the Republic of Armenia and the Vatican State. ICRANet has been created in 2005 by a law of the Italian Government, ratified by the Italian Parliament and signed by the President of the Italian Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi on February 10th, 2005. The Republic of Armenia, Italy, the Vatican State, ICRA, the University of Arizona and the Stanford University are the founding members.
On September 12th 2005 the Board of Governors was established and had its first meeting. Remo Ruffini and Fang Li-Zhi were appointed respectively Director and Chairman of the Board. On December 19th 2006 the Scientific Committee was established and had its first meeting in Washington DC. Riccardo Giacconi was appointed Chairman and John Mester Co-Chairman.
On September 21st 2005 the Director of ICRANet signed with the Ambassador of Brazil Dante Coelho De Lima the adhesion of the Federative Republic of Brazil to ICRANet. The entrance of Brazil, requested by the President of Brazil Luiz Ignácio Lula Da Silva has been unanimously ratified by the Brazilian Parliament. On August 12th, 2011 the President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff signed the entrance of Brazil in ICRANet.

1.2. Marcel Grossmann meetings
By the beginning of the twentieth century the new branch of mathematics, tensor calculus, was developed in the works of Gregorio Ricci Curbastro and Tullio Levi Civita of the University of Padua and the University of Rome "La Sapienza". Marcel Grossmann of the University of Zurich who had a deep knowledge of the Italian school of geometry and who was close to Einstein introduced to him these concepts. The collaboration between Einstein and Grossmann was essential for the development of General Relativity.
In order to promote this important collaboration between physics and mathematics, in celebration of that historic event, Remo Ruffini and Abdus Salam established in 1975 the Marcel Grossmann meetings (MG) on Recent Developments in Theoretical and Experimental General Relativity, Gravitation, and Relativistic Field Theories which take place every three years in different countries. MG1 and MG2 were held in 1975 and in 1979 in Trieste; MG3 in 1982 in Shanghai; MG4 in 1985 in Rome; MG5 in 1988 in Perth; MG6 in 1991 in Kyoto; MG7 in 1994 at Stanford; MG8 in 1997 in Jerusalem; MG9 in 2000 in Rome; MG10 in 2003 in Rio de Janeiro; MG11 in 2006 in Berlin; MG12 in 2009 in Paris; MG13 in 2012 in Stockholm; MG14 in 2015 in Rome. Since its foundation ICRANet plays a leading role in organization of MG meetings.

1.3. Celebration of the International Year of Astronomy 2009
ICRANet has been Organisational Associate of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 and supported the global coordination of IYA2009 financially. In this occasion ICRANet organized a series of international meetings under the general title "The Sun, the Star, the Universe and General Relativity" including: the 1st Zeldovich meeting (Minsk, Belarus), the Sobral Meeting (Fortaleza, Brazil), the 1st Galileo - Xu Guangqi meeting (Shanghai, China), the 11th Italian-Korean Symposium on Relativistic Astrophysics (Seoul, South Korea), the 5th Australasian Conference - Christchurch Meeting (Christchurch, New Zealand).

1.4. Celebration of the International Year of Light 2015
2015 celebrates the initiative of the United Nations and UNESCO as the International Year of Light, the centenary of the formulation of the equations of general relativity by Albert Einstein, and the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of relativistic astrophysics. ICRANet is a Bronze Associate sponsor of these celebrations.
In 2015, ICRANet also organized a series of international meetings including: the Second ICRANet César Lattes Meeting (Niterói - Rio De Janeiro - João Pessoa - Recife - Fortaleza, Brazil), International Conference on Gravitation and Cosmology / the 4th Galileo-Xu Guangqi meeting (Beijing, China), Fourteenth Marcel Grossmann Meeting - MG14 (Rome, Italy), the 1st ICRANet Julio Garavito Meeting on Relativistic Astrophysics (Bucaramanga - Bogotá, Colombia), the 1st Sandoval Vallarta Caribbean Meeting on Relativistic Astrophysics (Mexico City, Mexico).

2. Organization and its structure

ICRANet is an international organization promoting research activities in relativistic astrophysics and related areas.
The organization consists of the Director, the Steering Committee and the Scientific Committee. The members of committees are representatives of the countries and member institutions. ICRANet has a number of permanent Faculty positions. Their activities are supported by administrative staff and secretariat personnel. ICRANet financing is based by Statute on the funds provided by the governments and by voluntary contributions, donations.
Director of ICRANet is Remo Ruffini.
In 2015 the Steering Committee consists of:
  • Armenia: Haik Harutyunian
  • Brazil: Ademar Seabra da Cruz Junior
  • ICRA: Remo Ruffini, Carlo Luciano Bianco
  • Italy:
    • Italian Foreign Ministry, Unità Scientifica e Tecnologica Bilaterale e Multilaterale: Roberto Cantone, Alessandra Pastorelli, Immacolata Pannone
    • Ministry of Economy and Finance, Ragioneria Generale dello Stato, IGAE, Uff. IX: Giampaolo Bologna, Antonio Bartolini
    • MIUR: Vincenzo Di Felice, Rosalba Di Maro
    • Pescara Municipality: Marco Alessandrini, Carlo Pace
  • Stanford University: Francis Everitt
  • University of Arizona: Xiaohui Fan
  • Vatican City State: Guy J. Consolmagno
The actual Chairperson (2015) of the Steering Committee is Francis Everitt.
The first Chairperson of the Scientific Committee was Riccardo Giacconi, recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize for physics, who ended his term in 2013 for reasons of age. The actual (2015) Chairperson of the Scientific Committee is Felix Aharonian.
The Scientific Committee in 2015 consists of: Prof. Felix Aharonian (Armenia), Dr. Carlo Luciano Bianco (ICRA), Prof. Massimo Della Valle (Italy), Prof. John Mester (Stanford University), Prof. David Arnett (University of Arizona), Dr. Gabriele Gionti (Vatican City State).
The Faculty in 2015 consists of Professors Vladimir Belinski, Carlo Luciano Bianco, Luca Izzo, Jorge Rueda, Remo Ruffini, Gregory Vereshchagin, and She-Sheng Xue, and is supported by an Adjunct Faculty made up of more than 30 internationally renowned scientists participating in ICRANet activities, and between eighty "Lecturers" and "Visiting Professors". Among these are the Nobel Laureates Riccardo Giacconi, Murray Gell-Mann, Theodor Hänsch, Gerard 't Hooft and Steven Weinberg.

3. Member states and institutions

Currently ICRANet members are four countries and three Universities and research centers.
Member states:
Country Date joined
Republic of Armenia 2003
Federal Republic of Brazil 2011
Italian Republic 2003
Vatican City State 2003

Member institutions:
Institutions Date joined
University of Arizona (USA) 2003
Stanford University (USA) 2011
ICRA 2003

ICRANet have signed collaboration agreements with over 30 institutions, universities and research centers in different countries.

4. ICRANet seats and centers

The network consists of seats and center. Seat agreements, establishing rights and privileges, including extraterritoriality, have been signed on January 14, 2008 for the Seat in Pescara in Italy, for the Seat in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and for the Seat in Yerevan in Armenia. High speed optical fiber connection with different locations are made possible by the connection to the pan-European data network for the research and education community (GÉANT) through the GARR network.
Currently ICRANet centers are operative at:
  • ICRANet headquarters in Pescara, Italy
  • the Department of Physics of University "La Sapienza" (Rome, Italy)
  • Villa Ratti (Nice, France)
  • the Presidium of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences (Yerevan, Armenia)
  • CBPF - Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Físicas (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

ICRANet Centers in Pescara, Rome and Nice
ICRANet headquarters is located in Pescara, Italy. This ICRANet center is devoted to coordination of ICRANet activities. Yearly meetings of Scientific and Steering committees are usually held there. International meetings such as Italian-Korean Symposia on Relativistic Astrophysics are regularly held in this Center. Scientific activities in Pescara center include the fundamental research on the early cosmology by the Russian school guided by Vladimir Belinski.
Activities of the ICRANet Seat at Villa Ratti in Nice comprise the coordination of the IRAP-PhD program, as well as scientific activities connected with the ultra high energy observations by the University of Savoy and the VLT observations performed by the Côte d’Azur Observatory, which involve the thesis works of IRAP PhD students. The University of Savoy is the closest French lab to the CERN.

ICRANet Center in Armenia
The ICRANet Center in Yerevan has been established at the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Armenia (NAS RA) since January 2014. It is located at Marshall Baghramian Avenue, 24a. Scientific activities in this center are coordinated by Prof. Felix Aharonian and Dr. Narek Sahakyan. In Armenia, the ICRANet center collaborates with other scientific institutions from the Academy and Universities, which includes organizing joint international meetings/workshops, summer schools for PhD students and mobility programs for scientists in the field of Astrophysics. ICRANet center in Armenia coordinates ICRANet activities in the area of Central-Asian and Middle-Eastern countries.
In 2014, the Government of the Republic of Armenia approved the agreement to establish the ICRANet international center in Armenia. The seat agreement has been signed in Rome on February 14, 2015 by the director of ICRANet, Remo Ruffini and the ambassador of Armenia in Italy, Mr. Sargis Ghazaryan. On November 13, 2015 the Parliament of the Republic of Armenia approved unanimously the Seat Agreement.
A summer school and international scientific conference dedicated to the issues of Relativistic Astrophysics entitled "1st Scientific ICRANet Meeting in Armenia: Black Holes: the largest energy sources in the Universe" were held in Armenia from June 28 to July 4, 2014.

ICRANet Center in Brazil
The Seat of ICRANet in Rio de Janeiro has been activated, at first in the premises granted by CBPF; with the possible expansion to the Cassino da Urca. The 2nd ICRANet César Lattes Meeting dedicated to relativistic astrophysics was held in Rio de Janeiro in 2015. A school of Cosmology and Astrophysics is being developed with the aim to offer an advanced education in astrophysics, cosmology and in the pertinent fields, and to promote a continuous program of refresher courses for Brazilian and South-American scientists.
Currently (2015) ICRANet has signed agreements of scientific collaboration with 15 Brazilian universities, institutions and research centers.
There are two specific programs initiated by ICRANet, which are underway (2015):
  • the possibility of restructuring the mountain side of the Cassino da Urca as the Seat of ICRANet for Brazil and Latin America (with a project by the Italian Architect Carlo Serafini)
  • building of the Brazilian Science Data Center (BSDC), a novel astrophysics data base, built following the concept of the ASI Science Data Center (ASDC) by the Italian Space Agency, which will consist on a unique research infrastructure at the interface between experimental and theoretical astrophysicists

ICRANet Centers in USA
The present Chairman of the ICRANet Steering Committee Francis Everitt is responsible for the ICRANet Center at the Leland Stanford Junior University. His special activity has been the conception, development, launch and data acquisition, all the way to the elaboration of the final data analysis, of the NASA Gravity Probe B mission, one of the most complex physics experiment in space ever performed.
The first Chairman of the ICRANet Steering Committee Fang Li-Zhi developed collaboration with the Physics Department of the University of Arizona in Tucson. The collaboration with its Astronomy Department is promoted by David Arnett.

5. ICRANet and IRAP PhD program

Since 2005 ICRANet co-organizes an International Ph.D. program in Relativistic Astrophysics (International Relativistic Astrophysics Ph.D. Program, IRAP-PhD), together with: AEI - Albert Einstein Institute - Potsdam (Germany), CBPF - Brazilian Center for Physics Research (Brazil), Indian Center for Space Physics (India), INPE (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, Brazil), Institut Hautes Etudes Scientifiques - IHES (France), the Côte d’Azur Observatory (France), Observatory of Shanghai (China) Observatory of Tartu (Estonia), University of Bremen (Germany), University of Oldenburg (Germany), University of Ferrara (Italy), University of Nice (France), University of Rome “La Sapienza” (Italy), and the University of Savoy (France). The IRAP PhD program grants the first joint Ph.D. degree among the participating institutions, and has been a part of the prestigious Erasmus Mundus program of the European Commission.
In the next decade the international scientific community is engaged in a series of large astronomical projects such as the construction of the largest optical telescope in the world, the E-ELT the SKA and the CTA, which will study high energy astrophysical phenomena from the ground. The IRAP-PhD program developed by ICRANet aims to create the conditions for the formation of a new generation of scientists, leaders in their respective fields of astrophysics, and who will be the users of these instruments. For this reason, a network of universities and research centers has been created that can offer highly complementary skills. Every student admitted to the IRAP-PhD is part of a team in one of the laboratories of the consortium, and each year visits the other centers to keep track of the latest developments with the leading experts in the world in general relativity, relativistic astrophysics, cosmology and quantum field theory.
Among the associated centers, besides those engaged in theory, there are those performing experiments and observations. In this way the Ph.D. students can have a complete formation of theoretical relativistic astrophysics, and a vision of how to complete a specific space mission or ground based observation campaign in astrophysics.
The official language of the program is English, but students have the opportunity to learn the language of their host country, following a variety of courses at the partner universities.
As of 2015, the IRAP-PhD has seen the enrollment of 103 students: 1 from Albania, 2 from Argentina, 5 from Armenia, 1 from Austria, 2 from Belarus, 11 from Brazil, 5 from China, 6 from Colombia, 1 from Croatia, 5 from France, 4 from Germany, 8 from India, 4 from Iran, 34 from Italy, 2 from Kazakhstan, 1 from Mexico, 1 from Pakistan, 3 from Russia, 1 from Serbia , 1 from Sweden, 1 from Switzerland, 1 from Taiwan, 2 from Turkey, 1 from Ukraine.

6. Scientific research at ICRANet

ICRANet aims are training/education and research in the field of relativistic astrophysics.
The main activities of ICRANet are addressed to promote the international scientific co-operation; for this purpose many projects of scientific research in the domain of relativistic astrophysics, cosmology, theoretical physics and mathematical physics are being carried out.
The main areas of scientific research in ICRANet are:
  • Gamma-rays and Neutrinos from Cosmic Accelerators
  • Exact solutions of Einstein and Einstein-Maxwell equations
  • Gamma-Ray Bursts
  • Relativistic effects in Physics and Astrophysics
  • Big data analysis
  • Cosmology and Large Scale Structures
  • Theoretical Astroparticle Physics
  • Generalization of the Kerr-Newman solution
  • Black Holes and Quasars
  • The electron-positron pairs in physics and astrophysics
  • From nuclei to compact stars
  • Supernovae
  • Symmetries in General Relativity
  • Self Gravitating Systems, Galactic Structures and Galactic Dynamics
  • Interdisciplinary Complex Systems
Between 2006 and early 2015, ICRANet has produced over 1800 scientific publications in refereed journals such as Physical Review, the Astrophysical Journal, Astronomy and Astrophysics etc., in its various lines of research.

7. Other activities

7.1. International meetings and schools
IK meetings
The Italian-Korean Symposia on Relativistic Astrophysics is a series of biannual meetings organized alternatively in Italy and in Korea since 1987. It has been boosting exchange of information and collaborations between Italian and Korean astrophysicists on new and hot issues in the field of Relativistic Astrophysics. The symposia cover topics in astrophysics and cosmology, such as gamma ray bursts and compact stars, high energy cosmic rays, dark energy and dark matter, general relativity, black holes, and new physics related to cosmology.

The Galileo-Xu Guangqi meetings
The Galileo-Xu Guangqi meetings have been created to have once a year a forum for exchanges between eastern and western science dealing with relativistic astrophysics and related fundamental theoretical, experimental and observational fields.
The name of Xu Guangqi, the collaborator of Matteo Ricci (Ri Ma Dou) celebrates his generally recognized activities in bringing to China the works of Euclid and Galileo and his strong commitment to the process of modernization and scientific development of China. The meetings are also dedicated to recall the roots of the modern scientific research in the East and the West and review the recent progress in relativistic astrophysics. The 1st Galileo - Xu Guangqi Meeting was held in Shanghai, China in 2009. The 2nd Galileo - Xu Guangqi meeting took place in Hanbury Botanic Gardens (Ventimiglia, Italy) and Villa Ratti (Nice, France) in 2010. The 3rd and 4th Galileo - Xu Guangqi meetings were held in Beijing, China in 2011 and 2015, respectively.

Stueckelberg Workshops on Relativistic Field Theories
These workshops represent a one-week dialogues on Relativistic Field Theories in Curved Space, which is inspired to the work of E. C. G. Stueckelberg and is named the Stueckelberg Workshops. These meetings included invited lectures by Abhay Ashtekar, Thomas Thiemann, Gerard 't Hooft and Hagen Kleinert.

Other meetings
ICRANet also organized:
PhD schools
Within IRAP PhD program ICRANet is organizing PhD schools, in particular 15 schools were held in Nice and Les Houches, France, within EMJD program.

7.2. ICRANet visiting program
ICRANet has developed a program of visits for scientific collaboration with short and long duration.
Prominent personalities have carried out their activities at ICRA and ICRANet, among them are: Francis Everitt, Chairman of the Scientific Committee of ICRANet, Isaak Khalatnikov, Russian physicist and former director of the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics from 1965 to 1992; Roy Kerr, New Zealand mathematician and discoverer of the "Kerr Metric"; Thibault Damour; Demetrios Christodoulou; Hagen Kleinert; Neta and John Bachall; Tsvi Piran; Charles Misner; Robert Williams; José Gabriel Funes; Fang Li-Zhi; Rashid Sunyaev.

7.3. Weekly seminars
ICRANet co-organizes a Joint Astrophysics Seminar at the Department of Physics of University "La Sapienza" and ICRA in Rome. All institutions collaborating with ICRANet as well as ICRANet centers are participating in these seminars in the regime of video conference.

7.4. Brazilian Science Data Center
The main objective of the Brazilian Science Data Center (BSDC) is to provide data of all international space missions existing on the wavelength of X- and gamma rays, and later on the whole electromagnetic spectrum, for all the galactic and extragalactic sources of the Universe. A special attention will be paid to the achievement and the complete respect of the levels defined by the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA). In addition to these specific objectives, BSDC will promote technical seminars, annual workshops and it will assure a plan of scientific divulgation and popularization of science with the aim of the understanding of the Universe.
The BSDC is currently being implemented at CBPF, and at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), and will be expanded to all other ICRANet centers in Brazil as well as to the other Latin-American ICRANet Centers in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico: a unique coordinated continental research network planned for Latin America.
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