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Outcomes Of The 20th SKA Board Meeting

The Directors of SKA Organisation held a meeting at J W Marriott Hotel in Pune, India on the 4th and 5th of April 2016 for the 20th meeting of the SKA Board of Directors.

Notes from the Chair of the SKA Board, 20th Meeting of the Board of Directors of SKA Organisation


Professor Giovanni Bignami (Chair of the SKA Board) welcomed directors and invited guests from CNRS (France), European Southern Observatory, Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (Germany), Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Spain), National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (India), SKA China Office, and University of Cambridge (UK).

It was noted that since the last SKA Board meeting on 19-20 November 2015, the following directors have stepped down: Prof. Mike Garrett (Netherlands), Dr Grazia Umana (Italy) and Dr Giampaolo Vettolani (Italy). The following directors have been appointed:  Prof. Nicolo D’Amico (Italy), Prof. Steven Tingay (Italy) and Dr Marco de Vos (Netherlands)

Director-General’s Report

Professor Philip Diamond (Director-General, SKA Organisation) presented an update since the last SKA Board meeting which included an update on interactions with potential new member countries since the last meeting of the SKA Board.

The SKA Board discussed and approved the revised Human Resources Policies, including a code of conduct for SKA-sponsored meetings.

The Board noted the SKA Organisation Equality and Diversity Working Group’s Terms of Reference and the recruitment equality statistics and steps being taken to improve the gender and nationality balance within SKA Organisation.

Finance Committee

Prof. Diamond presented the Finance Committee’s Report of its fourth meeting held on 15 March 2016 on behalf of the Finance Committee. The SKA Board noted the Finance Committee Report.

The Board approved the appointment of Mazars LLP to provide internal audit services to SKA Organisation from 1 January 2016 for a period of two years.

Science Director’s Report

Dr Robert Braun (Director of Science, SKA Organisation) presented his Science Director’s Report which included updates on the Key Science Projects, and the development of a scientific error budget analysis for SKA-1 deployment. The annual Key Science Project workshop will be held in conjunction with the SKA Science meeting in Goa, India (7-11 November 2016).

Engineering Report

Mr Alistair McPherson (Head of Project and Deputy Director-General, SKA Organisation) presented the Engineering Report on design and development in the pre-construction phase of the SKA Project, which included an update on the overall progress of the project and the 11 element design consortia.  The Board noted the Engineering Report and the draft recommendations from the SKA System Review.

Risk Register

The SKA Board noted the risk report presented by Mr McPherson and acknowledged that the mitigation strategies presented for the corporate risks are sufficient.  Mr Thomas Auf der Heyde (Voting Director, South Africa) suggested that the site reports from Australia and South Africa, which are presented to the SKA Board at each meeting, should include reports on mitigation against SKA Organisation corporate risks which include the telescope site host countries.

SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC) Report

Professor Richard Hills (Chair of the SKA SEAC) presented the SEAC report from its face-to-face meeting held on 16-17 March 2016. The SEAC had considered five specific charges provided by the SKA Office and the SKA Board. The SKA Board noted the SEAC Report.

It was noted that Prof. Hills’ term as Chair comes to an end on 30 June 2016. The SKA Board thanked him for his excellent service and contribution as Chair of the SEAC. The Board discussed the revised membership of the SEAC and the proposal for a new SEAC Chair. A formal call for nominations for SEAC members will be released and nominations will be considered by the SKA Board.

SKA-1 Baseline Design v2

The Board noted the SKA-1 Baseline Design v2 description, which describes the overall structure of SKA-1, the detail of SKA-MID and SKA-LOW and notes the inclusion of MeerKAT into the SKA-1 Array. The SKA-1 Baseline design description has been placed under change control so that it will be subject to change through the Engineering Change Process only.

Construction Strategy

Mr McPherson presented the SKA-1 Construction Strategy. The SKA Board directed the SKA Office to develop plans for the SKA Development Centres and SKA Integration Test facilities and present recommendations at the next SKA Board meeting (13-14 July 2016).

Operations Planning Update

Professor Gary Davis (Director of Operations Planning, SKA Organisation) reported on progress in operations planning since the previous SKA Board meeting held in November 2015. The SKA Board noted his report.

The SKA Board discussed the proposed selection process for Operators for the two telescope sites. The SKA Board recommended that the SKA Office proceed with the option to appoint a preferred contractor for each of the two sites and begin contract negotiations. A final plan for the selection of Operations will be submitted to the SKA Board for approval at its next meeting.

Prof. Davis presented the report of the Data Flow Advisory Panel.  The SKA Board considered a number of recommendations by the Panel and agreed the following:

  • The Board confirmed its preference for a regional network model for provision of science data.
  • The SKA Office will set up an SKA Regional Centre Coordination Group to take forward the concept of regional provision of critical functions.
  • The SKA Board will consider the wider implications of the regional funding model, including
    1. whether the provision of SKA Regional Centres should be recognised in some form, and
    2. whether any of the costs associated with the network of SKA Regional Centres should be funded from the SKA Observatory Operations Budget.
  • The SKA Board accepted the Data Flow Advisory Report and agreed that the Panel should be disbanded.

Report on the second SKA IGO Negotiation Meeting

Professor Bignami provided a report on the 2nd Intergovernmental Organisation Negotiation (IGO) meeting held in Rome, Italy on 26-28 January 2016. The SKA Board noted the report and the progress of the four working groups.

The Board discussed the draft Technical Annex, a high-level description of SKA-1, which will be an annex to the SKA IGO Convention. The Board approved the draft Technical Annex with minor revisions and authorised Prof. Diamond to pass it to the Italian Presidency of the SKA IGO negotiation process for discussion at the 3rd IGO negotiation meeting to be held on 19-21 April 2016.

Policy Issues arising from the IGO negotiations

Dr Simon Berry (Director of Policy Development, SKA Organisation) presented a summary of the main discussion points and issues relevant to the SKA Board’s programme of work and responsibilities in relation to the SKA IGO negotiation process. The Board noted the policy issues arising from the SKA IGO Negotiation Process.

SKA Strategy and Business Development Committee (StratCom) Workplan for 2016

The Board approved the StratCom work plan as a basis for StratCom’s activities during 2016.

StratCom Report

Dr Berry presented the report of StratCom face-to-face meeting held on 9-10 March 2016. The Board noted the report and discussed the emerging issues arising from the development of a transition plan for the evolution of SKA Organisation to the future SKA IGO.

SKA Engagement Strategy

Prof. Diamond presented the SKA Engagement Strategy. The strategy has two main priorities. The first is to support the finalisation of the SKA IGO Convention and to encourage as many current member countries as possible to sign, make funding commitments and take part in the formation of the future SKA IGO. The second priority is to engage with potential new member countries. Ongoing engagement with national science communities, industry and key agencies and institutions will also continue. The Board approved the SKA Engagement Strategy.


Mr William Garnier (Director of Communications, Outreach and Education) presented the 2015 Communications Implementation Report and the SKA Communications Strategy for 2016-17. The SKA Board noted the 2015 Communications Implementation Report and approved the SKA Communications Strategy for 2016-17 including agreement of the communications objectives for the period until the establishment of the SKA IGO and the proposed approaches to achieve them. The Board also gave a mandate to the SKA Communications Steering Group to look at the evolution and adaptation of SKA branding and to report back to the SKA Board at its next meeting.

In consultation with the SKA Communication Steering Group and member countries, Mr Garnier will develop a Communications Implementation Plan for 2016-17 and present it to the SKA Board at its next meeting for approval.

Spectrum Management Policy

The Board approved the SKA Organisation Spectrum Management Policy which outlines the programme for engagement of SKA Organisation in the international spectrum management environment.

Status of the Headquarters and Site Hosting Agreements

Dr Berry presented a report on the status of the Headquarters and Site Hosting Agreements. The SKA Board noted the update on progress with the site and headquarters agreements and ongoing discussions on the site agreement texts. The Board also noted the text of the draft Headquarters Agreement.

Status of the Headquarters Design and Construction

Mr Colin Greenwood (Head of Administration, SKA Organisation) provided an update on the status of the design and construction of the global SKA Headquarters at Jodrell Bank.

Site Reports

The SKA Board noted site reports from Australia and South Africa.

Future SKA Board Meetings

The Board discussed future SKA Board meeting dates and the following was agreed:

  • SKA-BD-21 meeting: 13-14 July 2016 (SKA HQ)
  • SKA-BD-22 meeting: 24-25 November 2016 (Italy)
  • SKA-BD-23 Meeting: 29-30 March 2017 (Australia)

The SKA Board noted the revised SKA Board Forward Workplan for 2016.

Prof. Mike Garrett had stepped down as Science Director Representative on the SKA Board’s Executive Committee. Following a call for nominations, the SKA Board held an election and Prof. Bryan Gaensler was elected as the new Science Director Representative to the Executive Committee.

Giovanni Bignami

Chair, Board of Directors

SKA Organisation

24 May 2016

Below is an archive of all the previous Notes from the Chair.

19th SKA Board Meeting – November 2015

18th SKA Board Meeting – July 2015

15th SKA Board Meeting – October 2014

14th SKA Board Meeting – July 2014

12th SKA Board Meeting – March 2014

11th SKA Board Meeting – October 2013

10th SKA Board Meeting – July 2013

9th SKA Board Meeting – April 2013

8th SKA Board Meeting – January 2013

2nd SKA Board Meeting – March 2012

1st SKA Board Meeting – January 2012