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Outcomes of the SKA Board Meeting on 24-25 July 2013

Notes from the Chair of the SKA Board

Meeting of the Board of Directors of the SKA Organisation

SKA Headquarters, Jodrell Bank Observatory, UK

24-25 July 2013

The Directors of the SKA Organisation met at SKA HQ on 24-25 July for the 10th meeting of the Board of Directors.


Professor Philip Diamond, Director-General of SKA Organisation, welcomed the directors and invited guests to the ‘Professor Steve Rawlings SKA Board Room’ at SKA Headquarters; this room was recently named in memory of the late Professor Rawlings in recognition of his contributions to the development of the key science objectives of the SKA. Professor Diamond also acknowledged the original artwork ‘Boolardy SKA’, by Wajarri Yamatji artist Susan Merry, which now hangs in the room. This artwork was gifted to SKA Organisation by CSIRO at the official opening of the SKA Headquarters in April.

Director-General’s Report

Professor Diamond provided an update on project progress and shared his vision for the priorities of the project over the coming months. He stated that, in order to maintain project momentum, consortia design work must commence as soon as possible and the science assessment workshops must continue to provide inputs to the project. Professor Diamond noted that the board will have to make some key decisions in the near future, such as the future governance structure of the project and extension of funding for the SKA Office.

Mr Keith Ward, Baker Tilly UK Audit LLP, reviewed audit and accounting issues for the period ended 31 December 2012. Based on the Finance Committee’s recommendation, the Board approved the signing off of the Report and Financial Statements for this period, subject to recommendations by the auditors and points raised by the board being addressed for future years.

 SKA-1 Design Proposals

Dr Jason Spyromilio, Head of Project, reported on the evaluation panel that had considered the proposals from consortia to carry out the pre-construction work package activities. He noted that, in its report, the evaluation panel had congratulated the consortia and the SKA office for the work undertaken and had considered this to be an auspicious start to SKA pre-construction. However, the evaluation panel had expressed some concerns about potential fragmentation of manpower within consortia, both in terms of fractions of FTEs being allocated and geographical distribution of resources.

The board approved the proposed negotiation process in which a schedule of deliverables will be completed for each work package and value assigned to them. The value of a deliverable will be matched to the cost of its production. The board also mandated the SKA Office to start negotiating with the selected consortia immediately and to conclude agreements with these consortia regarding work package Statements of Work. It is expected that all negotiations will be concluded by end-September 2013.

The board approved the continued leadership of the Telescope Manager consortium by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics of India, until final clearance is obtained from the Indian Government to convert India’s Associate Membership status to Full Membership.

The board agreed to the publication of technical descriptions contained within proposals submitted in response to the Request for Proposals, subject to the redaction of sensitive information and the permission of the proposers.

The draft SKA IP Policy and Memorandum of Agreement (MoU) were discussed and the board decided to allow directors to receive inputs on these documents from national partners until early-September 2013. It is expected that the SKA IP Policy will be submitted for board approval in September 2013.

 SKA Phase 1 Cost

Following the recommendation of the Director-General of the SKA Organisation, the SKA Board has instructed the SKA Office to proceed with the design phase for SKA Phase 1 assuming a capital expenditure cost ceiling for construction of €650 M. The evolution of the SKA Phase 1 project to fit within this cost ceiling will be guided both during the design phase and construction by scientific and engineering assessments of the baseline design undertaken by the SKA Office in collaboration with the community and SKA’s advisory bodies including the Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC). This decision is consistent with the primary objective of building an exciting, next-generation telescope capable of transformational science.

Process for the Evolution of the Baseline Design

Professor Diamond presented a proposal for an evolutionary process for development of the baseline design into the SKA Architecture. It is envisaged that science assessments, engineering change proposals, risk assessments and cost will all be factors in the evolution of the baseline design. The SEAC will be expected to play a pivotal role in advising on the evolution of the design. Further refinement to the process will be carried out over the coming weeks.

It was noted that there are some deviations from the baseline design in the work package proposals but they remain within the scope of the engineering process of design and do not challenge the SKA board vision.

SKA Timeline

The board endorsed a new high-level project timeline for SKA-1 (see Gantt Chart below and new Project Timeline webpage). Inherent in the new timeline is an assumption that the present SKA Office arrangements need to be extended until end-2017 when construction funding may be in place. However, it will require approval by the Members of SKA Organisation for the new timeline to be formally adopted and for funding of the SKA Office to be extended.

SKA Timeline Gantt Chart

High Level SKA Schedule (subject to approval by Members)











SKA-1 Funding Framework

A funding model for the SKA-1 construction and initial operational phase was presented by Dr Simon Berry, Chair of the SKA board’s Funding Task Force.

The Funding Task Force was thanked for its work to date and was stood down. Responsibility for developing the implementation plan for the funding model was transferred to the SKA Strategy and Business Development Committee (StratCom).

Hosting Agreements

Dr Ian Corbett, a consultant to SKA Organisation, provided an update on progress to develop site hosting agreements. It is expected that draft documents will be available for the board to review at its next meeting.

Concept of Operations

The board approved top-level principles of the SKA concept of operations. These principles will guide the development of the detailed Concept of Operations and its subsidiary documents.  They will also serve as top-level requirements for the design of the SKA and will be key input parameters in determining the cost of operating the SKA.

SKA Science

Robert Braun, SKA Science Director, described his plans for SKA science team activities. He has recruited a team of three astronomers who will join the SKA Organisation in September and October. This team, together with the Science Working Group (SWG), will assess and advise on refining the baseline design. During this period, the SKA science team will also support work package consortia, develop a first draft of detailed SKA-1 configurations and update the Design Reference Mission (DRM).

Over the longer term, the role of the science team will include: carrying out science assessment of any design change requests through PDR, refreshing the SKA Science Case in collaboration with the SWG, developing final configurations, contributing to an SKA operational model and providing science support to Work Package Consortia.


The board appointed the following members to the Strategy and Business Development Committee (StratCom): Simon Berry, Brian Boyle, Ian Corbett, Jonathan Kings, Xin Li, Jean-Rene Roy, Daan du Toit, Giampaolo Vettolani, Beatrix Vierkorrn-Rudolph and Patricia Vogel. Mr Kings was appointed as Chair of the StratCom.

Ms Patricia Vogel reported that the interfaces between GO-SKA, an EC-funded project, and SKA project have been made clear. The aim of GO-SKA is to co-ordinate and support policy development of the global SKA project. It was confirmed that a Governance workshop will be held in Doha, Qatar on 27 October 2013.

It was noted that the SKA Science and Engineering Committee (SEAC) has held its inaugural meeting. Members of the SEAC are: Richard Hills (Chair), Sean Dougherty, Andrea Ferrara, Bryan Gaensler, Brian Glendenning, Jackie Hewitt, Justin Jonas, Andreas Kaufer, Adrian Russell, Garry Sanders, Matthias Steinmetz, Marco de Vos and Xuijan Xue.


Professor Diamond reported on progress with preparations for the SKA engineering meeting in Manchester, UK in October.

The next Board meeting will be held in Doha, Qatar on 28-29 October 2013.

The board approved a proposal for an indigenous art exhibition which will make a worldwide tour of SKA partner countries.

John Womersley
Chair, Board of Directors
SKA Organisation
31 July 2013



SKA Board of Directors, with the SKA HQ building in the background.
Top Row (l to r): Hans Olofsson (Director, Sweden), Elena Righi-Steele (Guest, European Commission), Beatrix Vierkotn-Rudolph (Director, Germany), LI Xin (Director, China), John Womersley (Chair of the SKA Board of Directors, UK), Phil Mjwara (Director, South Africa), ZHAO Jing (Director, China), Giampaolo Vettolani (Director, Italy), Jonathan Kings (Deputy Chair of the SKA Board of Directors, New Zealand), Peter Dewdney (Guest, SKA Organisation), Denis Mourard (Guest, CNRS/INSU, France).
Middle Row (l to r): Ian Corbett (Guest, Consultant), Mohsine Chefki (Guest, Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany), Brian Boyle (Director, Australia), Ethan Schreier (Guest, Associated Universities Inc, USA), Phil Diamond (Director-General, SKA Organisation), Paul Alexander (Director, UK), David Luchetti (Director, Australia), Bernie Fanaroff (Director, South Africa), Rowena Sirey (Guest, European Southern Observatory).
Front Row (l to r): Tim Cornwell (Guest, SKA Organisation), Yashwant Gupta (Observer, National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, India), John Conway (Director, Sweden), Mike Garrett (Director, Netherlands), Sean Dougherty (Director, Canada), Robert Braun (Guest, SKA Organisation), Luigina Feretti (Director, Italy), Colin Greenwood (Company Secretary, SKA Organisation), Patricia Vogel (Director, Netherlands).

























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 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