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Outcomes Of The 18th SKA Board Meeting

The Directors of SKA Organisation held a meeting at SKA South Africa Office in Cape Town, South Africa on 22nd and 23rd of July for the 18th meeting of the SKA Board of Directors.

Notes from the Chair of the SKA Board, 15th Meeting of the Board of Directors of SKA Organisation


Greg Fahlman (Voting Representative, Canada) welcomed directors and invited guests from ASTRON (Netherlands), Associated Universities Incorporated (USA), CNRS (France),Department of Industry and Science (Australia), Department of Science and Technology (South Africa), European Commission, European Southern Observatory, Instituto Nazionale di Astrofisica (Italy), Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Spain), Max Planck Institute for Radio astronomy (Germany), National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, Oxford University (UK), SKA China Office, SKA South Africa, Science and Technology Facilities Council (UK), and University of Cambridge (UK).

It was noted that since the last Board meeting on 3-5 March 2015, the following directors have stepped down: Prof. Brian Boyle (Australia), Mr CAI Jianing (China), Mr. Martin Hoffman (Australia), Mr Jonathan Kings (New Zealand), Prof. Michael Kramer (Germany) and Dr-Ing. Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolph (Germany). The following directors have been appointed: Dr Peter Crabtree (Crabtree), Ms Patricia Kelly (Australia), Dr. Sarah Pearce (Australia) and Mr YIN Jun (China).

Election of Officers

The SKA Board held elections and appointed Prof. Giovanni Bignami as the independent Chair of the SKA Board of Directors. Mr. YIN Jun (Voting Representative, China) was appointed as Vice-Chair to the SKA Board, each for a term of two years. Mr Colin Greenwood (Head of Admin. & Legal, SKA Organisation) was appointed as Company Secretary for a term of two years.

Prof. Mike Garrett (Science Representative, Netherlands) was appointed as Science Representative to the SKA Executive Committee.

Director-General’s Report

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

The SKA Board noted the interactions with potential new member countries since the last SKA Board meeting. It was noted that Germany had ceased to be a member of SKA Organisation on 30 June 2015 but scientists, engineers and Germany industry continue remain engaged in various aspects of project design.

Prof. Diamond reported on the Amazon Web Services Grant Scheme. SKA Organisation has been awarded a grant worth $1 million from Amazon Web Services (AWS) aimed at developing cloud-based tools for the analysis of radio astronomy data. It is intended that the tools developed with aid in the analysis of SKA data. Thirty eight teams submitted proposals in response to the Call for Proposals issued in May 2015. Twenty eight teams were awarded AWS credits and ten teams were awarded a small amount of funding from AWS for further development of their proposals.

Prof. Diamond provided an update on SKA Organisation’s IN-SKA application for Horizon 2020 funding under the European Commission’s INFRADEV-3-2015 initiative to fund detailed design of SKA infrastructure in Australia and South Africa. It was noted that the proposal has been favourably evaluated by the European Commission and a Grant Agreement, based on a maximum award of €4.95M, is being prepared.

Prof. Diamond presented the power policy. It was agreed that Prof. Diamond, in consultation with the Power Supply Options Workgroup, will further develop this policy.

Finance Committee

Dr. Colin Vincent (Chair of the SKA Finance Committee) presented the Finance Committee’s report of its second meeting held on 29 June 2015. The SKA Board approved the SKA Organisation Report and Financial Statements for the period ended 31 December 2015.

Quarterly Report on Design Activities

Mr Alistair McPherson (Head of Project and Deputy Director-General, SKA Organisation) 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 element design consortia. Mr McPherson provided an update on the Preliminary Design Reviews (PDR).

The SKA Board noted the quarterly report on design activities and discussed the Preliminary Design Reviews. It was agreed that Mr McPherson will provide the SKA Board with information on lessons learned during the PDR process including a report from each design consortium, actions taken and proposals for the future.

Science Director’s Report

Dr Robert Braun (Director of Science, SKA Organisation) presented his Science Director’s Report. It was noted that the revised Level 0 Science Requirements are scheduled for release in Q4 2015.

The SKA Board discussed the Key Science Projects Workshop (24-27 August 2015). The meeting will provide the first opportunity for the community to engage with key science projects. It was noted that the workshop has a limit of 150 participants.   The SKA Science Directors and Chairs of the SKA Science Working groups provided a prioritised list of nominations for attendance to ensure the wide national and scientific representation.

The SKA Science Book was published online in Proceedings of Science in May 2015. Printed copies of the book will be available in early-August 2015.

SKA Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC) Report

Prof. Richard Hills (Chair of the SEAC) presented the SEAC report on its recent teleconferences and meeting (9 March 2015, 22 May 2015 and 16 June 2015) and its recent visit to the SKA sites in Australia and South Africa. Prof. Hills also presented the recommendations made by the SEAC regarding the process of finalising the Element Preliminary Design Reviews, implementation of re-baselining and the preparation for the Critical Design Reviews.

Mr McPherson presented the SKA Office response to the SEAC Report which was noted by the SKA Board.

It was noted that Prof. Hills current term as Chair of the SEAC is due to come to an end shortly. The Board asked Prof. Hills and Prof. Diamond to explore the possible continuation of Prof. Hills’ terms as Chair for an additional year and to propose a modified terms of reference for the SEAC to the SKA Board for approval.

SKA-1 Baseline Design v2

Following the decision on re-baselining, the SKA Office has developed the Baseline Design from version 1 to version 2. The detail of SKA-1 Baseline Design v2, in particular its architecture, is being reviewed at present by an external Architecture Review team. This review is intended to give assurance that the revised architecture meets the requirements of the re-baselined solution. This Architecture Review will be followed by a full Systems Review in October 2015 to ensure that the whole of the SKA-1 Systems Design supports the revise baseline.

The SKA Board noted the SKA-1 Baseline Design v2 and the intention that the final version of the Baseline Design v2 will be presented to the SKA Board for approval its next meeting (19-20 November 2015).

SKA-1 Revised Schedule

Mr McPherson proposed a revised schedule for SKA-1 design activities. The SKA Board discussed this revised schedule and agreed that the Element Critical Design Reviews will be delayed by 10 months and be concluded by August 2017.

Construction Strategy

The SKA Board discussed the proposed Construction Strategy, which is based on the submission delivered by the design consortia and the developing procurement strategy. It was agreed that Mr McPherson will update the proposed Construction Strategy, taking into account feedback from the SKA Board, and present it at the next SKA Board meeting.

SKA Development Programme

Mr McPherson presented an outline description of a revised Advanced Instrumentation Programme (AIP) that would provide long-term continuity for the current AIP technologies being developed in the pre-construction phase of the SKA-1 project. The SKA Board provided feedback on the AIP Framework. It was agreed that Mr. McPherson will update the AIP Framework paper taking into account feedback from the SKA Board and present it to the SKA Board at its next meeting.

Gap Analysis

Mr McPherson noted that, as the Re-Baselining outcome is known and the Preliminary Design Reviews are moving to completion, it is timely for an analysis of the gaps that have been identified within the project. He identified three areas of gap: (i) those within Consortium work plans, (ii) those within the existing scope which have not been allocated to Consortia, and (iii) those outside the present overall scope of the SKA-1 project. The Board endorsed his recommendation for the SKA Office to:

  • Establish an advisory panel to investigate the possible options for Regional Data Centres.
  • Identify Members’ aspirations with regards to Regional Science and Engineering Centres (RSEC) and the Integration Centres and to submit a proposal to the SKA Board.
  • Following consultation with Members, to propose a policy statement on the role and operation of RSECs at the next Board Meeting.

Planning for Operations

Ms Patricia Kelly (Australia) presented an organisational structure for SKA construction and operations jointly proposed by SKA South Africa and the Australian SKA Office. Prof. Gary Davis (SKA Organisation) presented a paper containing a proposed SKA Office structure for the SKA Observatory in the operational phase of the SKA project. The SKA Board discussed the proposed structures and asked Prof. Davis to further develop the SKA Observatory Structure with support from a working group of representatives from the host countries.

Planning for SKA Headquarters Staffing

Mr McPherson presented the planning for SKA Headquarters staffing during the construction and operations phase of the Project. Dr Fahlman stated that the levels of staffing show a reliance on the RSECs, which are becoming an essential element of planning for the SKA-1 operations phase. It was noted that staffing levels will be revised as the construction and operations plans are developed.

Status Report on the Preparatory Meeting for Negotiations and the Next Steps

Mr David Luchetti (Australia) and Mr. Daan du Toit (South Africa) jointly presented a report on the preparatory meeting for negotiations towards the future SKA Intergovernmental Organisation. This meeting was held in Brussels on 23-24 June 2015, and was jointly hosted by Australia and South Africa. It was noted that Italy has accepted an invitation to Chair the formal negotiation process.

Strategy and Business Development Committee (StratCom) Programme Update

It was noted that Mr. Jonathan Kings has resigned as Chair of StratCom. Dr. Simon Berry (SKA Organisation) presented revised terms of reference for the StratCom to the SKA Board, which were approved by the SKA Board.

Update on Key Document Set

Dr Berry presented an update on the Key Document Set, including the draft SKA Observatory Agreement, activities on Privileges and Immunities (P&I), Procurement, Intellectual Property policy and Access policy. The SKA Board noted during the pre-negotiation meeting, it had been requested that the SEAC should provide input into the development of the Access Policy. It was agreed that the newly constituted StratCom will provide a technical advice paper on P&Is related to data access for consideration during the intergovernmental treaty negotiation process.

SKA-1 Prospectus

The SKA Board discussed the draft SKA Prospectus. The Prospectus will provide the member countries governments with key information about the project in preparation for negotiation of the intergovernmental organisation treaty. Dr Berry reminded the SKA Board that the Prospectus provides a general business case for the SKA and member countries will need to produce business cases specific to their own requirements. It was agreed that the final draft SKA Prospectus will be available at the end of August 2015 and will be reviewed by the SKA Executive Committee. The final SKA Prospectus will be distributed to SKA member countries at the first intergovernmental negotiation meeting in September 2015.

Status of the Headquarters and Site Hosting Agreements

Dr Berry presented a report on the status of the Headquarters and Site Hosting Agreements. The SKA Board noted this report and the start of negotiations between SKA Organisation and the UK government on the SKA HQ hosting agreement.

Status of the SKA HQ

Mr Greenwood reported on the status of the design and construction of the global SKA HQ at Jodrell Bank Observatory following the SKA Members’ decision to commence negotiations with the UK Government to host the permanent SKA HQ at Jodrell Bank.

Site Reports

The SKA Board noted site reports from Australia and South Africa.

SKA-2 Update

Dr Braun presented an update on the development of a science case and Level 0 Science Requirements for SKA-2. The Level 0 Science Requirements for SKA-2 will be developed following release of the SKA-1 Level 0 Science Requirements. For SKA2, the standard system engineering approach of generating Level 0 Science Requirements and then deriving Level 1 System Requirements will be followed. The SKA Board noted the progress to develop the SKA-2 science case and requirements.

Future Meetings

The next Board meeting is the SKA-BD-19 meeting which will take place in the Office on 19-20 November 2015.

Board meeting dates for 2016 have not yet been confirmed.


Giovanni Bignami

Chair, Board of Directors

SKA Organisation

19 August 2015