PPARC-NWO JOINT STEERING COMMITTEE
Joint Steering Committee Response to ING Review Report
The Joint Steering Committee (JSC) welcomed the Review Report. It noted with satisfaction that the Review had found the ING to be in generally good health and that its international standing and scientific output were judged to be world class. It accepted that there were a number of areas where improvements could be made in both structure and efficiency and responded to each point raised by within the Executive summary of the Review in turn:
Level of Resources: the Committee noted the Review's assertion that the total current ING resources were adequate for a viable programme and were in line with those provided for other international facilities. It endorsed the recommendation that a proportion of the operations budget (of the order of 10-20%) might be identified for use in instrumentation development and asked the Director ING to consider the means by which this might be realised. The Committee recognised the very considerable efforts which the Director ING had already made in improving operational and administrative efficiency and urged that these efforts be continued. It accepted that the full extent of this Review recommendation was likely to take some time to realise but hoped that the development of the 10m GranTeCan (GTC) optical infrared telescope, by the IAC on La Palma, might provide new possibilities for savings and asked the Director to explore this with the IAC.
Instrumentation: the Committee highlighted the need for a clear strategic development plan for the WHT, matched to the needs of the user communities and their scientific priorities and concentrating on delivering the best science at optimal cost. The Committee endorsed the recommendation that further consideration be given to optimising the instrumentation and detector suites supported on the WHT and looked to the Director ING to carry this forward. It asked the Director to consider the case for identifying a *Head of Development' for the ING, analogous to positions for the JCMT, UKIRT and AAT as an aid to developing these plans.
Staffing: the Committee was reassured to learn that the Review Panel had found that staff morale and enthusiasm at the ING were high and that the restructuring of the Royal Observatories provided an opportunity for the ING to develop. It noted the efforts which had been made to increase the autonomy given to the Director ING and to the ING by PPARC but noted that in some areas progress had been slow, notably with regard to staffing policies and practices and the level of financial reporting required. It urged the Funding Agencies to take these issues forward as soon as was practicable and highlighted the potential benefits to the science programme.
The Committee had highlighted the need to provide a strong research environment at the ING in its Statement issued in November 1997. This was endorsed by the Review Report. The Committee, with the support of the Funding Agencies, was able to agree the creation of a Joint Research Programme for the ING, with the expectation that the UK would be able to provide initial support, to include some postdoctoral research positions, and that the NL would be able to provide similar support in due course to allow average contributions to the Programme in line with those to the Joint UK/NL Budget.
External Management: the Committee endorsed the recommendation that it should be replaced by a Board with more authority and greater responsibility for ING operations. It asked the Funding Agencies to take this action forward and to invite the IAC to consider whether it wished to be represented, noting the expected greater links between the ING and the IAC in the era of GranTeCan.
The Committee recommended that the Director ING should be clearly seen as an employee of and responsible to the proposed ING Board.
The Committee agreed that the role of the Instrumentation Working Group for the JSC should be redefined and its membership strengthen to include wider representation and clear links to other advisory bodies.
The Committee emphasised the need for a Joint Instrumentation Programme to demonstrate a continuing commitment to the future of the facility. It was agreed that a Joint Programme should be identified to comprise the resources which the Director ING was able to transfer from Operations in line with the recommendation of the Report and contributions form the UK and NL where resources allowed. It was accepted that funding applications within either country could not be guaranteed to succeed and therefore a long term balance in contributions - as already accepted for the Joint Research Programme, should be taken as a goal. Both Funding Agencies were able to state a commitment to maintaining a joint instrumentation programme at some level as part of maintaining the health of the facility.
The Immediate Future: the Committee agreed that the development of a sea level base, to include more of the operations support functions currently carried out at the telescope could provide significant gains in efficiency. The present site precluded such development but the Committee asked the Director ING to discuss options for a larger scale development with the IAC, which it was understood was considering alternatives for the operating base of the proposed GTC.
The Committee noted the concerns raised by the Review regarding the quality and efficacy of the provision for International Time. As this was a specific provision of the international agreements with Spain it was suggested that options for maximising the scientific potential of this time should be discussed with the CCI by the Director ING.
The Committee endorsed the efforts being made by the Director ING to maximise the quality and potential of the ING staff through training and job development and offered the Director its full support.
The Longer-term Future: the Panel concurred with the Review Report that it also believed there was a major role for the ING in the era of the 8m class telescopes and expected that the measures which it was asking the Director to take forward would help guarantee it.
The Committee agreed to consider progress in implementing those recommendations of the Report which it had endorsed at its next meeting and offered its thanks to the Chairman of the Review and its members.