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Outcomes of the SKA Board Meeting on 30-31 January 2013

Notes from the Chair of the SKA Board

Meeting of the Board of Directors of the SKA Organisation

SKA Headquarters, Jodrell Bank Observatory, GB

30-31 January 2013

The Directors of the SKA Organisation met at SKA HQ on 30-31 January for the 8th meeting of the Board of Directors.

Professor Simon Garrington, Director of Jodrell Bank Observatory, welcomed the directors and invited guests to The University of Manchester’s new building to host the SKA.  Professor John Womersley, Chair of the board, welcomed Professor Philip Diamond, the new Director-General of the SKA Organisation, and Dr.-Ing Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolph and Professor Michael Kramer, directors representing Germany, which joined the SKA in December 2012.

The decision to host the SKA in both Australia and South Africa, which was made in 2012, was formally ratified at this meeting by the signing of the Members’ resolution passed in November 2012.

A funding model for the construction phase was presented by Dr Simon Berry, Chair of the SKA board’s Funding Task Force.  It was agreed that the 2007 cost estimate for the first phase of construction (SKA-1) should be increased to €400 M to take account of inflation since the original cost estimate was made.  This figure refers to ‘new’ money to the SKA project but does not take account of the additional costs associated with the dual site decision.  An updated cost estimate for SKA-1 will be produced later this year.  The board had a lively discussion of the Funding Task Force’s proposed funding model and raised a number of issues that the Task Force agreed to address in the next draft.

Professor Diamond reviewed resourcing of the pre-construction phase and reported a total of €23.4 M cash contributions have been committed to the project, and in-kind contributions are expected to exceed €90 M in value.

Professor Diamond reported on a recent internal system engineering review, which recommended the establishment of a reference conceptual design of the telescope (‘baseline design’).  The baseline design will conform to the Members’ dual site decision and will focus on SKA-1.

Dr Jason Spyromilio, on secondment to the SKA Office from ESO, provided a progress report on the Request for Proposals (RfP) process for allocating pre-construction stage 1 work packages.  The Board approved a timeline for the work package process in which the RfP will be released in early-2013 and interested parties will have 3 months to respond.  Proposals will be evaluated for completeness and compliance by a committee appointed by the SKA board, with its recommendation expected by October 2013; pre-construction stage 1 work will commence soon thereafter.

Dr Michiel van Haarlem, the SKA Organisation’s (Site) Hosting Negotiator, reviewed draft work package agreements.  The Board mandated the Director-General with the authority to decide whether the SKA Organisation becomes a signatory of a given consortium agreements and to dispense with multi-lateral agreements where appropriate.

Dr van Haarlem reviewed progress towards the establishment of site hosting agreements and noted the difficulty of the SKA Organisation entering an agreement that extends beyond 2015 given that it might be wound up as a legal entity at the end of the pre-construction period.  The Board approved a number of general principles for the site hosting agreements.

Professor Diamond reported that concern has been expressed by some in the radio astronomy community about the impact of the SKA on planned research using the SKA Precursors.  He confirmed the SKA Organisation’s support for the excellence of the ASKAP and MeerKAT science programmes and confirmed that these instruments will remain the responsibility of the host countries for a number of years to come.  He added that the SKA Office will work with management of the SKA Precursors to minimise disruption when the instruments are integrated into the SKA.

Professor Diamond proposed an updated staffing plan which will see the number of staff employed at the SKA Office increase from 20 at present (including secondments) to 38 by end-2013 and 44 by end-2014.  He also presented a draft budget for 2013, which was approved unanimously by the board.

The establishment of an Executive Committee and of a Science and Engineering Advisory Committee was approved by the Board.  In addition, Dr Greg Fahlman was appointed as Chair of the SKA Finance Committee.

Mr William Garnier presented a draft SKA communications strategy, which was approved by the Board.  The strategy document included plans to establish (i) an SKA Communications and Outreach working Group (SKACOWG), and (ii) an SKA Communications and Outreach Network (SKACON).  The primary aim of the SKACOWG will be to co-ordinate SKA-related communications and outreach activities around the world, whilst that of the SKACON will be to liaise with local media channels.

Mr Garnier also presented a proposal for a consistent project-wide SKA branding, which was approved by the Board.  He stressed the importance of using common branding by project partners to ensure that the SKA Observatory is perceived as being a single facility.

The meeting concluded by Dr Elena Righi-Steele (European Commission) providing an update on support by the EC for the implementation/operation phase of research infrastructure projects, and with Ms Patricia Vogel giving an update on GO-SKA project.

The next Board meeting will be held at SKA HQ on 18-19 April 2013, in conjunction with the opening ceremony for the new SKA HQ building.


John Womersley
Chair, Board of Directors
SKA Organisation

11 February 2013

Board of Directors, SKA Headquarters, 31 January 2013









Board of Directors: Hi Res Image

About the SKA

The Square Kilometre Array will be the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. The total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometre giving 50 times the sensitivity, and 10 000 times the survey speed, of the best current-day telescopes.  The SKA will be built in Southern Africa and in Australia.  Thousands of receptors will extend to distances of up to 3 000 km from the central regions.  The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the big bang, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the Universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth.  The target construction cost is €1,500 million and construction of Phase one of the SKA is scheduled to start in 2016.  The SKA Organisation, with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory, UK, was established in December 2011 as a not-for-profit company in order to formalise relationships between the international partners and centralise the leadership of the project.

For more information contact:

William Garnier
Chief Communications Officer,
SKA Organisation, UK

Tel: +44(0)161 306 9613