Print this page

Outcomes of the SKA Board meeting on 11-12 March 2014

Notes from the Chair of the SKA Board

 Twelvth Meeting of the Board of Directors of SKA Organisation
SKA Headquarters, Jodrell Bank Observatory, UK

11-12 March 2014

The Directors of the SKA Organisation met at the SKA Headquarters, Jodrell Bank on 11-12 March 2014 for the 12th meeting of the Board of Directors.


On 11 March 2014, the Rt. Honourable David Willetts, UK Minister for Universities and Science, visited Jodrell Bank Observatory to announce that the UK Government intends to provide additional funding of £100 M to the SKA project.  Following that announcement, the Minister, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor at The University of Manchester, and Professor Colin Bailey, Vice-President of The University of Manchester, were invited for discussions with the SKA Board.

Director-General’s Report

Professor Philip Diamond (Director-General, SKA Organisation) presented an update on project progress and noted the following highlights since the last SKA Board meeting:

 Completion of the SKA Level 1 system requirements;

  • Completion of all (8) planned Science Assessment workshops;
  • All (11) design consortia have commenced pre-construction design activities following approval to proceed by the SKA Board at its meeting in October 2013;
  • Appointment of new staff has been in accordance with recruitment plans and now only 8 posts remain vacant.

Professor Diamond reported that almost all of SKA Organisation’s strategic objectives for 2013 had been met and the few outstanding objectives will be addressed as part of ongoing work into 2014.

Mr Keith Ward, Baker Tilly UK Audit LLP, presented the audit plan for the period ended 31 December 2013.  The Board approved the scope of the audit and plan.

Quarterly Report on Design Activities

Mr Alistair McPherson (Head of Project and Deputy Director-General, SKA Organisation) provided the first Quarterly Report on design and development in the pre-construction phase of the SKA Project, which included an update on overall progress of the project and an update of the initial activities of the 11 Design Consortia.  Mr McPherson expected the documents detailing the interfaces between SKA elements, which are being written by the design consortia, will be agreed within the next few weeks.  He added that the SKA Office will then assume responsibility for interface management.

Strategy and Business Development Committee (StratCom)

 Mr Jonathan Kings (Director, New Zealand; Deputy Chair of the SKA Board and Chair of the StratCom), reported on the StratCom workshop held in Den Haag in January 2014.  Ms Patricia Vogel (Director, the Netherlands) presented the StratCom’s recommendations for ongoing governance activities.  The SKA Board approved the StatCom’s recommendation that the preferred option for the governance structure for the SKA Observatory be a treaty or inter-governmental agreement.  It was noted that provisions will be needed for Member States that cannot commit to this type of governance, and that arrangements will be necessary for transition from the current governance structure should there be delays in establishing the new legal framework beyond the start of construction.

Mr Kings and Professor Diamond will now start preparations for informal funding discussions with member representatives with the aim of obtaining governmental approval in Member States for signing of a letter of intent to establish the SKA Observatory as a permanent international organisation.

Key Document Set for SKA Prospectus

 Professor Diamond presented a paper on the Key Document Set being written by the SKA Office for the SKA Prospectus.  The SKA Prospectus will be an integrated set of key documents that will represent collated, detailed information on all aspects of SKA project governance, technical implementation and science drivers and outcomes.  The SKA Prospectus will be needed in order to enter into formal negotiation with Member State Governments to secure SKA-1 construction and operations funding.

 Board Calendar

Dr Simon Berry (Director of Policy Development, SKA Organisation) presented an SKA Board Calendar, which the board approved in principle as the baseline for its activities through 2014 and into early 2015.

Principles of Procurement

Dr Berry presented an SKA Procurement Handbook, which had been developed by GO-SKA and received by the StratCom at its workshop in January 2014, together with high level high-level principles of procurement.  He noted the requirement of Member countries to receive a level of return proportional to their investment in the SKA.

The Board approved the following high-level procurement principles:

  • That the procurement policy be developed around the principles of openness, competitiveness and transparency, noting the requirement for Member States to receive a level of return proportional to their investment.
  • That such principles as set out above should be applied to be cash and in-kind contributions.
  • That procurement should be a centralised process managed by the SKA Organisation, with the SKA Organisation having responsibility for the valuation of in-kind contributions according to principles within a framework agreed by the Board.

Principles of Access Policy

Dr Berry presented the proposed high-level principles of the SKA access policy, as previously developed by the Funding Task Force (FTF).  The SKA Board noted that these principles need to take into account return on member countries investment to the SKA Project and access for large multi-national survey teams, which may contain participants from non-member countries. Professor Diamond and Dr Berry were asked to redraft the principles of the access policy, taking into account input from the SKA Board discussion, for resubmission for SKA Board approval.

Process for Selection of SKA Headquarters Host

Professor Diamond presented a proposed process for selection of the permanent SKA Global Headquarters.  The SKA Board agreed that expressions of interest to host the SKA Headquarters be requested from member countries as the next step.

Science and Engineering Advisory Committee Report and Response

Professor Richard Hills (Chair of the SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee) presented a report of the SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee’s (SEAC) first face-to-face meeting in December 2013.

Professor Hills reviewed the SEAC’s report from this meeting.  He noted the SEAC’s view that dramatic progress has been made during the previous year.  He congratulated the SKA team on defining the baseline design, stressing that the goal of re‐baselining will be to optimise the overall scientific capability while fitting within the €650 M cost cap.  He noted that the community must be involved in the hard choices to be made as part of the re-baselining process.  In his response to the SEAC report, Professor Diamond stated that the SKA Office is continually reviewing various scenarios for the re-baselining of SKA-1.

Principles, Processes and Timings for Re-baselining

Mr McPherson presented a paper describing the principles, process and timings to allow the current baseline design of SKA-1 to be changed in order for the resultant design to be delivered within the available budget and schedule.  The Director-General will make a clear recommendation to the SKA Board about the scope of the rebaselining in March 2015.

Business Plan

The SKA Office policy team is drafting a new version of the SKA Organisation’s Business Plan.  Dr Berry presented the revised scheme of work for the developing this plan, involving the assistance of a Consultative Group of SKA Board Directors; the SKA Board approved this proposed scheme.

Science Director’s Report

Dr Robert Braun (SKA Science Director) presented his Science Director’s Report, which included discussions on a strategy for Science engagement for the SKA.

The SKA Board discussed the SKA Science Meeting “Advancing Astrophysics with the Square Kilometre Array” to be held in Sicily in June 2014.  The conference programme will be constructed from advanced chapter drafts for the SKA Science Book, which have been submitted by the SKA Science community.  Dr Braun explained that over 160 chapter drafts had been received and chapters are constrained through instructions to authors to consider three scenario for instrument capabilities when developing chapters:

  • the published SKA-1 baseline design
  • a potential 30% reduction in sensitivity of the SKA-1 baseline design
  • a fully specified SKA-2

It was agreed that the SKA Science Book should be published after the re-baselining process had been completed in early 2015.

Risk Register

Mr McPherson presented the risk management system which is being applied across the SKA project.  The SKA Board noted the methodology of risk management used and the current status of risk exposure.

SKA Hosting Agreements Update

Dr Michiel van Haarlem (Head of SKA Office, the Netherlands) provided an update on development of the SKA Hosting Agreements.  He reported that good progress has been made in drafting the documents since the previous SKA Board meeting (Doha, Qatar in October 2013).  The changes made have been in accordance with the outcome of the Doha Governance workshop/Board Meeting and the StratCom meeting of 16-17 January 2014, and reflect the developments in drafting the Observatory Agreement.

Dr van Haarlem noted that the Hosting Agreements will have to be taken over by the SKA Observatory when established under the Observatory Agreement.  He confirmed his intention to submit the Hosting Agreements for SKA Board approval at its SKA-BD-14 meeting (now 8 July 2014), subject to sufficient progress being made on the Observatory Agreement.

Communications Strategy

Mr Garnier presented the revised 2014-17 SKA Communications Strategic Plan following feedback from the SKA Board at their meeting in Doha, Qatar, October 2013.  The SKA Board acknowledged the improvements made and approved the 2014-17 SKA Communications Strategic Plan.


Professor Michael Garrett (Director, the Netherlands) gave a presentation on the proposed Astronomy and ESFRI Research Infrastructure Cluster (ASTERICS).  The SKA Board encouraged Professor Garrett’s continued engagement with ASTERICS.

Future meetings

The following schedule of future SKA Board meetings was agreed:

  • SKA-BD-13meeting: late-April/early-May (teleconference). Subsequently confirmed as a telecon on 6 May 2014.
  • SKA-BD-14 meeting: early-July (Cape Town, South Africa). Subsequently confirmed as a video meeting on 8 July 2014 owing to directors’ availability.
  • SKA-BD-15 meeting: 15-16 October 2014 (China, Guiyang)
  • SKA-BD-16 meeting: 3-4 December 2014 (SKA HQ, Jodrell Bank)
  • SKA-BD-17 meeting: 3-5 March 2015 (SKA HQ, Jodrell Bank Observatory)

This meeting was Ms Patricia Kelly’s (Director, Australia) last meeting as a SKA Board Director.  Professor Womersley thanked Ms Kelly, on behalf of the SKA Board, for her contributions to the SKA project.  Dr Subho Banerjee, Deputy Secretary, Australian Department of Innovations, Industry, Science and Research, will be the new voting representative for Australia.

John Womersley
Chair, Board of Directors
SKA Organisation

25 March 2014


The SKA Board of Directors together with the Rt. Hon. David Willets, MP, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell and Professor Colin Baily at SKA HQ, Jodrell Bank Observatory, on 11 March 2014