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Outcomes Of The 21st SKA Board Meeting

The Directors of SKA Organisation held a meeting at SKA Headquarters in Jodrell Bank, United Kingdom on the 13th and 14th of July 2016 for the 21st meeting of the SKA Board of Directors.

Notes from the Chair of the SKA Board, 21st Meeting of the Board of Directors of SKA Organisation

Board Photo - July '16

21st Meeting of the Board of Directors of SKA Organisation at SKA Headquarters.


Professor Giovanni Bignami (Chair of the SKA Board) welcomed directors and invited guests from ASTRON (Netherlands), Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (UK), CNRS (France), Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Spain), Science and Technology Facilities Council (UK), SKA China Office and SKA Office.

It was noted that since the last SKA Board meeting on 4-6 April 2016, Mr Yin Jun stepped down as Director for China and vice-Chair of the SKA Board. Mr CAI Jianing was appointed as the new Director for China.  Prof. Lars Börjesson was elected as the new vice-Chair of the SKA Board.

Director-General’s Report

Professor Philip Diamond (Director-General, SKA Organisation) presented an update on project activities, including interactions with potential new members, since the last SKA Board meeting.

The SKA Board discussed the outcome of the UK’s European Union Referendum and issued a statement to reaffirm the UK’s continued commitment to the SKA project; this statement has been published on the SKA website.

The SKA Board discussed SKA Organisation recruitment.  It was agreed that in order to ensure that SKA Organisation’s job vacancies are advertised as widely as possible, SKA Board directors will nominate a contact point within each member country to be responsible for direct advertisement of these vacancies.

Science Update

Dr Robert Braun (Director of Science, SKA Organisation) presented his Science Director’s report which included an update on the relative survey speed of SKA1-MID and ASKAP and on the impressive imaging abilities of SKA1-MID and SKA1-LOW as compared to current, state-of-the-art facilities. The Board noted the recent activities of the SKA Organisation Science Team.

Finance Committee

Dr Colin Vincent (Chair of SKA Finance Committee) presented the Finance Committee’s Report of its fifth meeting, held on 22 June 2016. The SKA Board noted the Report. The Board approved the SKA Organisation Report and Financial Statements for the period ended 31 December 2015.

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. He acknowledged the support provided by the Murchison Wide Field Array and LOFAR projects in developing the configuration and calibration strategy for SKA1-LOW.  The Board noted the Engineering Report whilst recognising the significant achievements within the project since the last SKA Board meeting as well as the large amount of work still to be done.

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.

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 24 June 2016. The SEAC had considered two specific charges provided by the SKA Director-General.  The SKA Board noted the SEAC Report.

Under a recent written resolution, it was noted that the Board had approved the revised membership of the SEAC and the proposal for the new SEAC Chair, replacing Professor Hills.  The Board thanked Professor Hills for his hard work and significant contributions to the SKA project during his term as SEAC Chair.

Pre-Construction Schedule

Mr McPherson presented the pre-construction schedule. The Board noted and endorsed the proposed approach to set an agreed and firm schedule for the remaining pre-construction activities with the aim to begin construction of SKA1 before the end of 2018.

Outline Construction Plan, incl. update on Call for Expressions of Interest

Mr McPherson presented the outline SKA-1 Construction Plan, including an update on feedback received from a recent Call for Expressions of Interest issued to Member countries, based on the current SKA1 Cost Book. It was agreed that an outline proposal for staged construction of SKA1 should be prepared for endorsement by the SKA Board before the 4th Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO) Negotiation meeting to be held in September 2016.

SKA Integration and Test Facilities and SKA Development Centres

Prof. Diamond presented a description of the nature, roles and responsibilities of the SKA Regional Centres, SKA Development Centres and Integration and Test Facilities, which was noted by the Board.

Report on the third SKA Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO) Negotiation Meeting

Professor Bignami provided a report on the 3rd IGO Negotiation meeting held in Rome, Italy on 19-21 April 2016. The Board noted the report and the progress of the four working groups.

The Board discussed the draft SKA Observatory Convention Technical Annex, which had been revised following the third IGO negotiation meeting, and also reviewed by the SKA SEAC. Prof. Diamond will work with the Board Science Directors to revise the draft Convention Technical Annex to develop a text which can be agreed by the negotiating parties.

StratCom Report

Dr Simon Berry (Director of Policy Development, SKA Organisation) presented a report on the StratCom face-to-face meeting held on 14-15 June 2016, which was noted by the Board.

Transition Planning

Dr Berry presented an update on the transition planning from the current SKA Organisation towards the future SKA Observatory IGO.  The Board noted the work to date and the establishment of a Transition Oversight Committee as a sub-group of StratCom; and the Transition Issues Working Group which is internal to the SKA Organisation and will report to the Transition Oversight Committee.

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 discussed the status of the site hosting agreements in relation to the draft SKA Observatory Privileges and Immunities Protocol which is currently being negotiated as part of the process to establish the SKA Observatory IGO. The Board noted the ongoing discussions regarding the site hosting agreement text and also noted the text of the draft SKA Headquarters agreement between the future SKA Observatory IGO and the UK Government.

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.

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 April 2016; the SKA Board noted this report.  The revised top-level operational principles for the SKA Observatory, which form a boundary for operations planning activities, were approved by the SKA Board.

The SKA Board discussed the plan for the selection of operators for the two telescope sites in Australia and South Africa.  The SKA Board recognised the inherent advantage of appointing the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and SKA South Africa as preferred bidders in view of their unique technical experience.  The SKA Board requested that Prof. Diamond engage with both parties in order to prepare for a more detailed consideration of this matters by the SKA Board in due course.

Site Reports

The SKA Board noted site reports from Australia and South Africa and welcomed the first light images from the MeerKAT initial array release (further information is available on the SKA Africa website).


Mr William Garnier (Director of Communications, Outreach and Education) presented the Communications Implementation Plan for 2016-17, which was noted by the Board.

Future SKA Board Meetings

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

  • SKA-BD-22 meeting: 24-25 November 2016 (UK)
  • SKA-BD-23 meeting: 29-30 March 2017 (Australia)
  • SKA-BD-24 meeting: 18-19 July 2017 (Italy)

Giovanni Bignami

Chair, Board of Directors

SKA Organisation

2 August 2016

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

20th SKA Board Meeting – April 2016

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