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Outcomes of the SKA Board Meeting on 18-19 April 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

18-19 April 2013

The Directors of the SKA Organisation met at SKA HQ on 18-19 April for the 9th meeting of the Board of Directors.

During the Board meeting, Mrs Linda Rawlings named the main meeting room at SKA HQ as the “Professor Steve Rawlings SKA Board Room” in honour of her late husband. Steve was an inspirational driving force during earlier years of the SKA project and he helped define the key scientific objectives of the project.

Election of officers of the SKA Organisation was held and the following appointments were made for a term of two years: John Womersley, UK (Chair), Jonathan Kings, NZ (Vice-Chair) and Colin Greenwood (Company Secretary). In addition, Michael Garrett, NL, was appointed scientific representative to the Executive Committee of the board. Patricia Vogel, NL, stepped down as outgoing Vice Chair and was thanked for her contributions in that capacity since incorporation of the Company in December 2011.

Dr Simon Berry presented an outline of a share-based funding model for SKA-1 on behalf of the SKA board’s Funding Task Force (FTF). The board approved a number of funding principles and agreed that an appropriate funding model based on science capacity is needed for setting a starting point for funding negotiations.

Dr Jason Spyromilio provided an update on the process of the Request for Proposals (RfP) to engage in detailed design of the SKA; the RfP was released on 11 March 2013 and closes on 10 June 2013. Prof Philip Diamond reported that VAT clearance has been received from HMRC for funds received by UK work package contributors from the UK Member (STFC). This means that no substantive change is needed in the Company’s IP policy and this will be submitted for approval by the Board once outstanding feedback has been received.

Professor Peter Dewdney provided a presentation on the baseline design for SKA-1, which is the starting point for the final design. Dr Spyromilio stated that changes to the baseline design will be informed to a great extent by a series of science assessment workshops during 2013. Dr Joseph Lazio described the first science assessment workshop, held at SKA HQ on 26-28 March 2013; it was attended by 18 leading experts from 10 countries and focussed on the field of Cosmic Dawn – Epoch of Reionisation. Future science assessment workshops will cover continuum observations (9-11 Sep. 2013), “low redshift” hydrogen (23-25 Sep. 2013), and pulsars (date tbc). Additional workshops on Fast Transients and Cosmology are also planned.

Dr Douglas Bock presented a paper on behalf of the Operations Working Group (OWG) on the principles of concepts of operation. This sparked lively and useful debate and the interaction between the work of the OWG and the FTF in areas like observing time policy was noted.

Drs Corrado Perna and Philip Crosby moderated a procurement workshop during the Board meeting. The aim of the workshop was to ensure a common understanding of procurement issues and risks, and to identify a set of procurement principles for SKA-1.

Prof Diamond proposed a revised SKA timeline, which includes a design schedule for completing Critical Design Review by 2016. It was agreed that the SKA Office should continue to develop the revised timeline to take account of feedback from consortia during the RfP and, if possible, incorporate staged deployment of SKA-1 into the plans.

A number of standing committees were established, including the Science and Engineering Committee (SEAC), Strategy and Business Development Committee (StratCom) and Finance Committee. The SEAC will advise the Director-General and the Board on matters related to scientific and technical issues. The StratCom will oversee a range of strategic activities, such as development of a Project Agreement, which will set out the basic principles and goals of the SKA Project. The Finance Committee provides guidance to the Board and the Director General on financial matters.

Prof Diamond stressed that membership of the SEAC and StratCom comprises leading international experts irrespective of national affiliations, but he invited directors to nominate candidates to ensure full geographic representation. Dr Greg Fahlman nominated Maria Karlsson (Finance Officer, Chalmers University, Sweden) as Vice-Chair of the Finance Committee.

Prof Diamond proposed that the Design Consortia Evaluation Panel be chaired by Dr Spyromilio and comprise 3 members from the SKA Board and 3 members from the SEAC, and be supported by Mr Kobus Cloete, SKA Project Manager. He invited the Board to submit their nominations for the Evaluation Panel.

Dr Michiel van Haarlem provided an update on progress developing SKA Hosting Agreements since the last Board meeting.

Dr Ian Corbett provided an update on development of the draft SKA project agreement and reviewed options for future structure and governance of the SKA project; he proposed an inter-governmental agreement as the optimum solution but he noted that a “hybrid” structure, i.e. a legal entity with an overarching inter-governmental agreement, would be quicker to establish. Ms Miriam Roelofs reviewed governance studies undertaken during the preparatory phase of the SKA project and proposed the next steps for establishing future SKA governance, including transferring ownership of the process to the StratCom.

Progress reports were provided by invited guests on SKA-related activities in France, South Korea and Japan. Dr Tony Beasley, Director of NRAO, reported on recent radio astronomy activities in the USA. It was also reported that India is expected to apply for full SKA membership within the next few months.

Finally, the Board endorsed a plan to trademark the SKA brand in all Member countries, plus the EU, USA, Japan and Republic of Korea.

The next Board meeting will be held at SKA HQ around 25 July 2013 (venue and date tbc). An engineering meeting, open to all personnel from SKA Work Package Consortia, SKA committees and workgroups, will be held at SKA HQ on 7-11 October 2013. It is intended to hold a major SKA science meeting in 2014Q2.

John Womersley
Chair, Board of Directors
SKA Organisation
30 April 2013

SKA Board of Directors in front of the Lovell Telescope, Jodrell Bank Observatory. 19 April 2013. Credit: SKA, W. Garnier (SKA)










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