The Directors of the SKA Organisation held a meeting on 15-16 October 2014 at Hotel Novotel Guiyang Downtown, Guiyang, China for the 15th meeting of the Board of Directors.
Notes from the Chair of the SKA Board, 15th Meeting of the Board of Directors of SKA Organisation
Professor John Womersley (Chair of the SKA Board of Directors) welcomed directors and invited guests from ASTRON (Netherlands), CNRS (France), European Southern Observatory, MOST (China), NAOJ (Japan), STFC (UK), and University of Cambridge (UK). Professor Womersley welcomed Professor Yashwant Gupta (Director, India) to his first meeting as a voting member of the SKA Board of Directors.
Professor Philip Diamond (Director-General, SKA Organisation) presented an update on project progress and noted the following highlights since the last SKA Board meeting:
- Extensive work with the design consortia on developing the re-baselining cost submissions and the documentation for Preliminary Design Reviews;
- SKA Engineering Meeting held in Fremantle, Australia on 29 September – 3 October; and
- Shared Sky Art Exhibition, which opened at the John Curtin Gallery in Perth, Australia on 30 September.
Professor Diamond provided an update on SKA Organisation Membership. The National Centre for Radio Astrophysics in India became a Full Member of SKA Organisation in August 2014.
Professor Diamond noted that SKA Organisation has received an invitation from the European Commission to apply for a limited amount of Horizon 2020 funding under its INFRADEV-3-2015 initiative. Professor Diamond explained that the SKA Office will submit a bid for funding which will assist in implementation of SKA infrastructure.
Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC) Update
Professor Richard Hills (Chair of SEAC) presented his report on the SEAC’s second face-to-face meeting, which took place on 16-17 June 2014. Professor Diamond presented his response to the SEAC report. The report and response were noted by the SKA Board.
Professor Hills also presented his report on the third SEAC meeting, held via teleconference on 19 September 2014. The main business of this meeting was to review the outcome of the science prioritisation process carried out by the SKA Office’s Science Team and the ad-hoc Science Review Panel (SRP). The SEAC agreed with the SRP that the SKA Office’s Science Team had done a good job in carrying out the assessment of the list of science topics and that the SRP had provided valuable feedback on the science prioritisation process.
Professor Hills outlined the four recommendations made by the SEAC (i) to publish the outcome of the science prioritisation process, (ii) the ability to perform tier-two science objectives should be given no significant weight in the re-baselining process, (iii) the SKA Office should move to complete the revision of the Level 0 Science Requirements as quickly as possible and (iv) four or five key science objectives for SKA-1 should be developed.
Professor Diamond provided the SKA Office response to the SEAC report. He stated that the first three recommendations are being or have been implemented. The SKA Office believes that 13 tier one priorities are sufficient to proceed with re-baselining and there is not a need to narrow the key objectives further at this stage; however the SRP will review the re-baselining options in December 2014 and further prioritisation of the science objectives could be done at that stage if required.
The SKA Board noted the SEAC Report and the SKA Office’s response.
Quarterly Report on Design Activities
Mr Alistair McPherson (Head of Project and Deputy Director-General, SKA Organisation) presented the quarterly 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 design consortia. Mr McPherson reported all consortia had submitted documentation for the review of the current baseline and are each preparing submissions for their Preliminary Design Review.
The SKA Board noted the report on project and corporate risks, which outlined the process by which risk management is now fully incorporated into the project.
Initial report on Re-baselining
Mr McPherson provided an initial report on the review of the current baseline design. The SKA Board noted the progress to date and re-emphasised the importance of adhering to the cost cap of €650M for the revised baseline design. The SKA Board encouraged the SKA Office to take advantage of design consortia effort where possible and stated that a broad range of options for re-baselining should be developed. It was noted that the SRP and SEAC will have a critical role in reviewing the re-baselining options before they are presented to the SKA Board in March 2015.
SKA All-hands Engineering Meeting
The SKA Board noted the report on the all-hands Engineering Meeting held in Fremantle, Australia on 29 September – 2 October 2014. The meeting brought together over 300 engineers, scientists and industrial partners from across the SKA community to discuss the status of project activities.
Science Director’s Report
Dr Robert Braun (Science Director, SKA Organisation) presented his Science Director’s report. The SKA Board noted the good progress being made on the SKA Science Book, which will be published in (northern) spring 2015.
Report from 1st Meeting of the Science Review Panel (SRP)
Dr Braun reviewed of the science prioritisation process and presented the report from the 1st Science Review Panel Meeting, held by videoconference on 2 September 2014. The SKA Board noted the outcome of the science prioritisation process and discussed the process undertaken by the SKA Office’s Science Team and the SRP. The SRP will hold a further meeting in mid-December 2014 to discuss the options for the revised baseline design in the context of the science priorities.
The SKA Board noted the work to update the Level 0 Science Requirements to reflect the outcomes of the science prioritisation process is underway; the revised requirements will be published in mid-November 2014.
Strategy and Business Development Committee (StratCom) Update
Mr Jonathan Kings (Deputy Chair of the SKA Board, and Chair of the StratCom) reported on the StratCom teleconference held in July 2014 and the StratCom meeting held in Rome on 25-26 September 2014. He noted that StratCom had discussed the Letter of Intent which, once signed by Member countries will signal intent to work towards establishing a treaty agreement for the SKA Observatory. He stated that StratCom had discussed the draft Observatory agreement in detail and endorsed the text to be discussed further by the SKA Board. StratCom also endorsed the draft procurement and work assignment process for discussion by the SKA Board.
Letter of Intent
Dr Simon Berry (Director of Policy Development, SKA Organisation) presented a draft Letter of Intent, the text of which was approved by the SKA Board. Professor Diamond was asked by the SKA Board to invite member countries to sign the Letter of Intent with the aim of signing by 28 February 2015.
SKA Prospectus Table of Contents
The SKA Board noted the SKA Prospectus’ Table of Contents. The SKA Prospectus will provide member country governments with key information about the project in preparation for treaty negotiations.
Draft Observatory Agreement
Dr Berry presented the draft Observatory Agreement, which had been endorsed by StratCom for approval by the SKA Board before being elevated to the formal intergovernmental negotiation process.
The SKA Board discussed the draft Observatory Agreement and provided feedback in a number of areas. The SKA Board approved the Observatory Agreement as a ‘working draft’, subject to some minor amendments discussed in the meeting, which will be frozen prior to final approval in 2015.
Dr Berry presented the principles for the procurement/work assignment process which are based on the high-level procurement principles approved by the SKA Board at their meeting in March 2014. The SKA Board approved a number of principles which will provide a framework for further development of an SKA Procurement Policy.
Top-level SKA Operations Concept
Mr McPherson presented the top-level operations concept for governance of SKA project in the construction and operation phases. The model is based on the concept of SKA being a single observatory over two sites, which was previously developed by the SKA Organisation’s Operations Working Group. The SKA Board welcomed the concept, provided feedback on several areas and requested a further draft of the concept be developed for SKA Board approval.
Proposed Policy on Key Science Projects
Dr Braun presented the proposed policy on Key Science Projects during the early stages of SKA-1. The policy focuses on providing return on investment for SKA member countries while maximising science outcomes. The SKA Board supported the principles of the policy and agreed that the policy should be included in the SKA Key Document Set. The SKA Board suggested that feedback on the policy be sought from the science community. It was agreed that the policy should be updated and presented to the SKA Board for approval in March 2015 as part of the SKA Key Document Set.
The SKA Board noted site reports from Australia and South Africa.
SKA Finance Committee
The SKA Board discussed the membership of the SKA Finance Committee. The SKA Board ratified the nominations for membership of the SKA Finance Committee received. The first meeting of the SKA Finance Committee will be held in late-November 2014.
The SKA Board agreed to change the format of the SKA-BD-16 meeting to accommodate a meeting of the SKA Members, which will be held on December 3 at the SKA HQ. The next SKA Board meetings are scheduled as follows:
- SKA-BD-16 meeting: 4 December 2014 (SKA HQ, Jodrell Bank Observatory)
- SKA-BD-17 meeting: 3-5 March 2015 (SKA HQ, Jodrell Bank Observatory)
- SKA-BD-18 meeting: July 2015 (South Africa)
- SKA-BD-19 meeting: November 2015 (SKA HQ, Jodrell Bank Observatory)
Chair, Board of Directors
31 October 2014