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Outcomes of the SKA Board Meeting On 8 July 2014

The Directors of the SKA Organisation held a meeting via videoconference on 8 July 2014 for the 14th meeting of the Board of Directors.

Notes from the Chair of the SKA Board, 14th Meeting of the Board of Directors of SKA Organisation held by videoconference, 8 July 2014


Professor John Womersley (Chair of the SKA Board of Directors) welcomed directors and invited guests from Baker Tilly UK Audit LLP (UK), CNRS (France), Foundation of Science and Technology (Portugal), NRAO (USA), European Commission, ESO, SKA Organisation, Squire Patton Boggs LLP (UK) and STFC (UK).

Principles, Process and Timeline of Re-baselining

Mr Alistair McPherson (Head of Project and Deputy Director-General, SKA Organisation) presented a paper describing the revised principles, process and timeline to change the current baseline design of SKA-1 as necessary in order to deliver the project on time and within the construction cost cap of €650 M. The SKA Board discussed the development of the science priorities which will form the basis of the review to the current baseline design. The SKA Board agreed that the Director-General will take ownership of the science prioritisation process and keep the Board informed, including reporting any difficulties that arise in the process.

The SKA Board approved the revised principles, process and timeline for review of the current baseline design. The SKA Office will provide progress reports on the review to the SKA Board in October and December 2014 before the Director-General makes a clear recommendation to the SKA Board about the scope of the re-baselining in March 2015.

Quarterly Engineering Report

Mr McPherson 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 that the first deliverables from design consortia have been received by the SKA Office. The design consortia are preparing input to the review of the current baseline design and to the design consortia preliminary design reviews.

Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC) Update

Professor Richard Hills (Chair of the SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee) presented a report on the SEAC’s second face-to-face meeting, which was held in June 2014. The SEAC received presentations from representatives of each design consortium and held a discussion on scientific prioritisation with the Chairs of the SKA Science Working Groups (SWG).

Professor Hills reviewed the SEAC’s report of the meeting. He noted the significant progress made by the SKA project. He stated the SEAC’s view that the current Level 0 Science Requirements document needs further review to improve links between the key scientific goals and the Level 1 Engineering Requirements. He noted that communication is a critical aspect of the SKA project and will become more important as the pace of the project increases. The SEAC suggested that staff from design consortia should be encouraged to spend time working at the SKA Office.

In the SEAC’s view, a significant issue facing the SKA project is the difference between the current cost estimate of SKA-1 and the cost cap of €650 million. Professor Hills noted that the SEAC urges the SKA Office to work with the design consortia and the science community to fully understand the scope of the issue.

Strategy and Business Development Committee (StratCom) Update

Mr Jonathan Kings (Director, New Zealand; Deputy Chair of the SKA Board and Chair of the StratCom) reported on the StratCom meeting held in Beijing in May 2014. He noted that StratCom had endorsed 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 endorsed the overall governance timeline and reaffirmed its support for the preferred governance option of a treaty organisation. StratCom considered the structure of the treaty agreement and provided feedback to the treaty drafting team, a consultative group of StratCom members.

Dr Simon Berry (Director of Policy Development, SKA Organisation) presented the governance timeline, which had also been endorsed by StratCom, to the SKA Board.

Key Document Set for SKA Prospectus

The Board discussed progress on key documents which will form part of the SKA Prospectus, which is required to enter into formal negotiation with Member governments to secure funding for SKA-1 construction and operations funding.

Letter of Intent

The Board noted the final version of the Letter of Intent which had been issued to SKA Organisation Members by the Director-General as part of the invitation to participate in informal funding discussions. SKA Board Directors provided feedback from consultations with their governments on the text of the Letter of Intent.

Draft Observatory Agreement

Dr Berry presented the first full draft of the SKA Observatory Agreement, based on discussions within the StratCom’s drafting group. The Board discussed the draft agreement and provided feedback in a number of key areas. A second draft of the Observatory Agreement will presented to the StratCom for discussion at its meeting in September 2014.

SKA Business Plan

Dr Berry presented a paper outlining the background work undertaken for the revised SKA Organisation Business Plan. The Board discussed several areas and provided feedback and advice on the aims of SKA Organisation and the structure of the SKA Office for input into the Business Plan. A specialist consultant will work with the SKA Office’s Policy Team to draft the plan, which will be presented to the Board for approval in October 2014.

Hosting Agreements

Dr Michiel van Haarlem (Head of SKA Office, the Netherlands) presented the final draft of the SKA Hosting Agreements. The Board noted that the main sections of the agreements have been agreed between SKA Organisation and the host country negotiating teams.

The Board accepted that any further changes to the text of the Hosting Agreements will be on hold until sufficient progress has been made on the SKA Observatory Agreement and associated funding agreements. Squire Patton Boggs, SKA Organisation’s legal advisers, confirmed that the SKA Hosting Agreements as drafted, provide the necessary legal framework to proceed with the SKA Observatory Agreement and related funding agreements. The Board noted that changes to annexes of the Hosting Agreements may be necessary after completion of the re-baselining process.

Process for Call for Proposals for Hosting SKA HQ

Professor Diamond presented a paper on the proposed process and timeline for the call for proposals for selection of the permanent global SKA Headquarters. This paper was discussed by the Board and will be further developed by Professor Diamond.

Director-General’s Report

Professor Diamond presented an update on project progress and noted the following highlights since the last SKA Board meeting:

• Finalisation of outstanding Memorandum of Understanding with design consortia;
• SKA Science Meeting: “Advancing Astrophysics with the Square Kilometre Array” in Giardini Naxos, Italy on 9-13 June 2014;
• Representation of SKA Organisation at major international meetings including a significant profile at the 2014 International Conference on Research Infrastructure in Athens, Greece on 2-4 April 2014; and
• Appointment of new staff has continued in accordance with recruitment plans and now only 6 posts remain vacant.

Professor Diamond provided an update on SKA Organisation Membership. The National Centre for Radio Astrophysics in India has received government clearance to join SKA Organisation as a full member.

Professor Diamond noted that, in the next few weeks, SKA Organisation expects to receive an invitation from the European Commission to apply for funding from its INFRADEV-3 Horizon2020 programme. Professor Diamond explained that this potential funding would be provided for project implementation activities.

Science Review Panel

The SKA Board discussed the appointment of an ad-hoc Science Review Panel to review the science priorities of the SKA as part of the re-baselining process. Professor Alexander (Director, United Kingdom) suggested that a national representative from each member country be invited to join the Science Review Panel in addition to the Science Working Group Chairs. It was agreed that the SKA Board would nominate a national representative to join the panel if required.

Concept of Operations

The Board noted the update to the Concept of Operations document, which defines the operational model of the SKA Observatory.

Science Director’s Report

Dr Robert Braun (SKA Science Director) presented his Science Director’s Report. The SKA Board discussed the SKA Science Meeting “Advancing Astrophysics with the Square Kilometre Array” held in Sicily in June 2014 and congratulated the science team on the success of this conference. The Board noted progress on the SKA Science Book which will be published electronically in spring 2015, after re-baselining has been completed.

John Womersley
Chair, Board of Directors
SKA Organisation

21 July 2014