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Outcomes of the SKA Board Meeting on the 28-29 October 2013

Notes from the Chair of the SKA Board

Meeting of the Board of Directors of the SKA Organisation

Best Western Hotel, Doha, Qatar

28-29 October 2013

The Directors of the SKA Organisation met at Best Western Hotel, Doha, Qatar on 28-29 October 2013 for the 11th meeting of the Board of Directors.


Professor John Womersley (Chair of the SKA Board of Directors) welcomed directors and invited guests from AUI (USA), Embassy of the Republic of South Africa in Brussels, ESO, IAA (Spain), INAF (Italy), Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Spain), National Funding Plan for Astronomy and Astrophysics (Spain), NRAO (USA), NWO (Netherlands), SKA China Office, SKA Organisation and STFC (UK).

Director-General’s Report

Professor Philip Diamond (Director-General, SKA Organisation) provided an update on project progress and noted the following highlights since the last SKA Board meeting:
• Negotiations of Statements of Work for pre-construction design with 10 design consortia;
• SKA Engineering meeting, which was held in Manchester on 7-11 October 2013;
• Development of Level 1 system requirements, with release to the design consortia on 4 Nov. 2013 (T0);
• Two Science Assessment Workshops (Galaxy Evolution / Continuum and Galaxy Evolution / Neutral Hydrogen); and
• Recruitment of new staff (~ 75 interviews have taken place). Alistair McPherson (currently ELT Project Manager) takes up post as SKA Head of Project on 1 Feb. 2014.

Professor Diamond stated that Design Consortia are interacting with industry effectively in the design of the SKA elements. It was agreed that a network of Industry Liaison Officers (ILOs) should be established, with one ILO based in each Member country.

Professor Diamond reported that the European Commission, together with the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), established a high-level Assessment Expert Group (AEG) to evaluate the financial and managerial maturity of the 35 projects on the ESFRI Roadmap. This is part of a process to consider the type and level of EU support which could be devoted to ESFRI projects under Horizon 2020. The AEG has now completed its work. It divided the projects into 3 categories based on research infrastructures that: (i) meet the criteria to be ready for implementation by 2015, (ii) might be able to achieve maturity by 2015, and (iii) have minimal chances of achieving maturity by 2015. SKA is one of 8 projects placed by the AEG into the highest category.

Professor Diamond presented two draft outreach papers: “SKA Communications Strategic Plan 2013-17” and “SKA 2013-14 Communication and Public Outreach Implementation Plan”. The strategic plan will guide the development and implementation of the global SKA Communications and Public Outreach Programme from now until the start of SKA-1 construction. The SKA Board provided helpful and insightful feedback which will be incorporated into these documents. The implementation plan will map out relevant outreach initiatives developed worldwide either by SKA Organisation or by one of the SKA partners.

Science Director’s Report

Dr Robert Braun (SKA Science Director) provided his Science Director’s Report, which included discussions on SKA Science Working Groups (SWGs), SWG Co-ordination Meetings (attended by Braun, SWG chairs and design consortia project scientists from), Science Assessment Workshops, SKA Science Team activities, how the SKA-1 baseline redefines the state-of-art, and SKA Key Science.

Dr Braun stated that, over the next 6 months, the SKA Science Team will finalise the top level science requirements, assess the baseline design, support the Configuration Control and Change Review Boards, support design consortia, produce a final iteration of SKA-1 configurations, and develop/assess re-scope scenario.

The breadth of the SWGs science representation was questioned by the SKA Board. Dr Braun stated that scientific merit rather than geographical representation is the primary consideration for SWG membership. He added that the process by which national communities can nominate members to the SWGs is posted on the SKA website; also membership of SWGs is open to self-nomination by individuals.

Professor John Conway (Director, Sweden) suggested that the SKA Board’s Science Directors could act as one of the communication channels between the SWG and their national communities. He stressed the need for SWG activities to be well documented.

Reports on ASKAP and MeerKAT

Professor Brian Boyle (Director, Australia) reported significant progress in the development of infrastructure to support Australia’s hosting of the SKA project. He provided an update on some of the recent activities relating to the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP), the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), Pawsey High Performance Computing Centre and the power supply at the Murchison Radioastronomy Observatory (MRO) site. He noted that:
• There was a small ceremony on 4 July 2013 marked the official opening of the MRO Support Facility in Geraldton;
• The MWA operations phase was officially launched at Monash University on 9 July 2013; and
• The Pawsey Centre officially opened on 8th August 2013 (but has been in operation since April 2013).

Dr Bernard Fanaroff (Director, South Africa) provided a status report on radio frequency protection, KAT7, and MeerKAT subsystem level design, development and status. He noted that:
• KAT7 is now a fully functional science instrument with capability exceeding what was originally specified; its reliability is now approaching that specified for MeerKAT;
• The first science paper from KAT7 (on radio jets from binary star systems) has been published in the science journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomy Society” and several others have been accepted; and
• MeerKAT infrastructure is expected to be completed by March 2014.

SKA Governance

Ms Patricia Vogel (Director, The Netherlands) reported on the SKA Governance Workshop, held in Doha on 27 October 2013. This workshop was jointly organised by Go-SKA project and the SKA Board’s Strategy and Business Development Committee (StratCom). Topics for discussion included the preferred legal framework, possible juste retour principle, considerations for the development of a procurement strategy, and principles and development of the Observatory Agreement.

Mr Jonathan Kings (Director, New Zealand; Deputy Chair of the SKA Board and Chair of the StratCom) outlined the next steps in developing a future governance model. The StratCom and the SKA Office’s Policy Development team will assess several options for the long-term governance structure of the SKA arising from the Governance Workshop; GO-SKA will provide further input on specific topics as required.

SKA Presence in Host Countries

Professor Diamond noted that, as the SKA moves from pre-construction into construction and then operations, it will need to establish a presence in the two host countries. He outlined a number of principles for establishing such a presence, such as cost-effectiveness and avoidance of undue disruption of national astronomy activities. He also reviewed a number of existing models, such as ESO in Chile, Mauna Kea in Hawaii and NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Professor Diamond reviewed the following options for establishing a presence in the host countries:
• Establishment of a subsidiary organisation in each host country, which is then responsible for all aspects of engineering and science operations.
• SKA Organisation tenders for a contractor for engineering operations and for science operations. If suitable savings can be shown, a single prime contractor may be appointed.
• A hybrid model in which a contractor is appointed to run engineering operations and the SKA Organisation runs science operations.

Professor Diamond stated that the SKA Global Headquarters (GHQ) will be the administrative centre for the construction and operations of the SKA. The GHQ will be ultimately responsible for the scientific success of the SKA. He stressed the importance of the SKA maintaining control of its science data products.

Design Consortia

Dr Jason Spyromilio (SKA Head of Project) presented a status report on negotiations between SKA Organisation and design consortia, which was approved by the SKA Board. This approval provided the mandate to proceed from the negotiation phase to establish design consortia and commence pre-construction design activities.

Professor Diamond reported that the SKA Memorandum of Understanding (“MoU”), SKA IP Policy and SKA Document and Access Use Policy (“DAUP”) had all been approved by the SKA Board. The MoU being the agreement which defines the relationship between SKA Organisation and members of a particular design consortium (both collectively and individually). Any exceptions to the MoU will be handled in its Schedule of Variation.

The SKA Board delegated authority to its Executive Committee (XC) to review and approve requests from design consortia for exceptions to the MoU. The XC may escalate a request for an exception to the SKA Board if it deems this necessary.

Professor Diamond confirmed that valuations of Local Contributions made via design consortia will be used in the Pre-construction phase only as a means of tracking deliverables and will not be carried forward to form part of funding negotiations beyond this phase of the project.

SKA Hosting Agreements

Dr Ian Corbett (Consultant and former Deputy Director, ESO) provided an update on development of the SKA Hosting Agreements. He confirmed that there have been constructive discussions with both Australia and South Africa and that drafting of the documents is nearly completed. The aim is for the text to be finalised in time for the next SKA Board meeting and then to obtain the Members’ approval of the documents by mid-2014.

Professor Diamond was asked by the SKA Board to develop an outline schedule of scientific operations for SKA-1, ASKAP and MeerKAT.

Strategy and Business Development Committee

Mr Kings reported on StratCom activities, which included an update by Dr Corbett on the draft Observatory Agreement. The next steps will include the incorporation of feedback from the SKA Governance Workshop into the draft document. It was agreed that, at the next SKA Board meeting, the StratCom will submit a proposed timeline, including critical milestones, for extending the term of SKA Organisation.

Concept of Operations

Professor Diamond presented an update on development of Concept of Operations (ConOps) by the Operations Working Group. The draft ConOps document describes organisational plans for operating the SKA and defines the entire SKA Observatory, including Global HQ, host country activities, and user support and data delivery. The document will provide operational functional requirements that will feed into the SKA design.

Future meetings

The following schedule of future SKA Board meetings was agreed:
• 11-12 March 2014 (SKA HQ) – date confirmed
• June 2014 (video-conference) – date tbc
• 16-17 October 2014 (China, possibly Shanghai) – date tbc
• 10 December (video-conference) – date tbc

It is intended to hold the next annual SKA Engineering meeting in Perth, Australia in early-October 2014.

John Womersley
Chair, Board of Directors
SKA Organisation
22 November 2013


The SKA Board of Directors met in Doha, Qatar, on 28-29 October 2013