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News from Science Board - 2012

Science Board met on the 12th and 13th December at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL).

Professor Grahame Blair, STFC Executive Director of Programmes, was welcomed to his first meeting.

Science Board received reports on three projects from the Projects Peer Review Panel (PPRP), which it discussed in detail, and made recommendations to STFC Executive concerning funding of these projects.

An update on the Programmatic Review was provided by the Executive. The review process has commenced and all subgroups have now met at least once, and reports from the Advisory panels have been received.  Science Board reviewed the proposed subgroup outputs and discussed the format of the final Programmatic Review report, the process by which it will address the balance of the programme, and the information it will need to do this.

The Large Facilities Subgroup’s (LFS) options for the Large Facilities Funding Model (LFFM) were received. Science Board endorsed the LFS options development, and noted some potential improvements to the process recommended by the subgroup.

Professor Mike Bode, Chair of the Advisory Panel for Public Engagement (APPE), presented the panel’s annual report. Science Board thanked the panel for its work and commented on various aspects of the report and the APPE’s future plans.

Other business included a report from the Accelerator Strategy Board, two Statements of Interest, an update on plans for Open Access publishing, and a discussion of the process and procedures involved in the recent Astronomy grants round.  Science Board was also given a brief outline of the activities of RAL Space and toured the department.

The next meeting of Science Board will take place on the 21st and 22nd February 2013.

Science Board met on the 10th and 11th September 2012 at the UKATC, Edinburgh.

Science Board welcomed six new members of the Board as part of the rotation of Board membership. They are:

  • Professor Julian Eastoe – University of Bristol
  • Professor Sean Freeman – University of Manchester
  • Professor Anthony Lasenby – University of Cambridge
  • Professor Ken Long – Imperial College London
  • Professor Simon Redfern – University of Cambridge
  • Professor Justin Wark – University of Oxford

Its business included a report from a sub-group dedicated to reviewing, on behalf of UKSA, the scientific priorities of four instrument proposals for the ESA JUICE mission to the Jupiter system; a discussion about STFC’s input to the RCUK Capital Investment Framework; and a Statement of Interest.

An update on the status of the Programmatic Review was provided by the Executive. Science Board noted that the Advisory Panels were currently consulting with the relevant communities and that the reports from these consultations, setting out their priorities for the future of the fields, were due to be received in October. The Board also noted that the information from the project Principal Investigators would be available within the next week.

Science Board discussed the current landscape of neutron access through ISIS and ILL and the development of ESS. Although some of the relevant aspects will be addressed in the Programmatic Review, Science Board judged that a specific and thoroughgoing review of the UK strategy for neutron provision will be needed. Science Board will establish such a Neutron Strategy Review to identify the priorities and options for neutron access.

Science Board also noted that, given the rapidly changing international scene, there will be a need for a corresponding strategy for photon provision, and will discuss this at a later meeting.

As well as routine business items, Science Board reviewed its last year of operation and its work plan for the coming year.

Science Board noted that over the last year the new structure had worked effectively in general, but that some aspects needed improvement. Areas which needed improvement included ensuring that enough time is available for strategic assessments and future planning. Science Board reaffirmed the importance of establishing and sustaining fruitful links with the Advisory Panels.

In discussing the future work programme, Science Board noted that some important long-term investment decisions would need to be made in the coming year. In addition to the Neutron and Photon strategy reviews noted above, the Energy and Security reviews, to follow on from the previous valuable reviews of Healthcare and Environment, will also be high priority activities once the Programmatic Review is completed.

Science Board met on 5th and 6th July 2012 at Polaris House, Swindon. Its business included:

  • reports from the Particle Physics Experimental Grant Panel (PPGP(E));
  • the Science Board sub-group established to develop a strategy for the UK Dark Matter Community;
  • the Education, Training and Careers Committee (ETCC);
  • and a report from the UK Space Agency regarding preparations for the next European Space Agency Ministerial meeting.

Science Board also discussed the forthcoming Programmatic Review, and formulated some initial considerations for a review of the operation of the reconstituted Science Board which is planned for September.

Science Board received and discussed in detail a report presented by the chair of the PPGP(E) on the process and outcome of the recent grants round. Science Board thanked the Panel for its hard work in reviewing the proposals and endorsed the recommendations made by the PPGP(E). A suitable procedure to review the outcome of the Astronomy Grants Panel in October was also agreed by the Board.

A report was received from a Science Board sub-group which had been given the task of developing a strategy that would enable the UK to gain leadership in the field of Dark Matter. Following a report and presentation from the sub-group Chair, Science Board agreed that the science case for direct Dark Matter detection research is still very strong.

A vision and approach for achieving UK participation with influence and leadership in future large-scale dark matter experiments had also been clarified by the sub-group. The Board approved a funding recommendation for the medium term on the proviso that the proposed work programme be refocused as specified in the strategy. It was decided that the longer term vision presented in the strategy should be considered as part of the Programmatic Review.

Science Board received a report presented by the chair of the Education, Training and Careers Committee (ETCC), which it discussed in some detail. The Board commended the work of the Committee and provided comments on how to improve the selection process for the Ernest Rutherford Fellowships, the algorithm for allocating studentships, and a proposal to move towards funding four year studentships. It was noted that the balance of studentships and fellowships would be considered in further detail as part of the Programmatic Review.

Science Board received a report from the UK Space Agency (UKSA) on the European Space Agency (ESA) Mandatory Science Programme in connection with UK preparations for the forthcoming ESA ministerial meeting. The Board noted that ESA has a strong and globally competitive science programme which continues to address STFC science priorities and to serve the UK astronomy community very well.

Science Board also agreed on the process and timescale for providing detailed scientific advice to UKSA on options for UK contributions to instrumentation for the JUICE mission to the Jupiter system (which has recently been approved for implementation by ESA).

Science Board received an update from the Executive on the process for the Programmatic Review, and provided some comments, in particular on the guidance to the Advisory Panels and sub-groups.

In September 2012, Science Board will review how the reconstituted Board has been functioning since its formation in September 2011. In preparation for this, the Board discussed a number of aspects that need to be considered, and agreed that comments from Council and the Executive would be useful to the review.

This meeting saw the completion of the tenure of Professor Tony Ryan as Science Board Chair. From the next meeting, current Deputy Chair, Professor Matt Griffin will take over this role.

The next meeting of Science Board will be on 10th and 11th September 2012.

Science Board met on 19-20 April 2012 at Polaris House in Swindon. Its business included:

  • reports from the Computing Advisory Panel and the Futures Advisory Panel;
  • draft action plans to implement the recommendations from the Physical and Life Sciences Committee Reports on Healthcare and Environment Capability within STFC;
  • consideration of statements of interest for a variety of projects;
  • consideration of the ESA Cosmic Vision L Class Missions;
  • the report from the Science Board Sub-Group set up to consider the future of the JCMT/UKIRT and ING telescopes;
  • ongoing planning for the upcoming Programmatic Review.

Science Board received and welcomed a report from the STFC Computing Advisory Panel, and suggested additional areas that should be considered by the CAP.

Science Board received the 1st annual report from the Futures Advisory Panel. The Board noted that the Futures Programme is being shaped through the development of the Theme Plans and that pilot schemes are being set up to establish Networks and Concepts projects.

Science Board considered draft action plans that had been developed by STFC Executive to implement the recommendations from the Physical and Life Sciences (PALS) committee reports on STFC capability in meeting healthcare and environment research challenges. Science Board provided comments on the action plans and additional suggestions for actions.

The UK Space Agency invited Science Board to provide advice on the scientific value of the ESA L Class Missions (ATHENA, JUICE and NGO) prior to mission selection by the ESA Science Programme Committee in May 2012. Science Board considered the three missions and provided comments on the potential scientific value of the missions.

Science Board received the report from the Science Board Sub-Group to consider the future of JCMT/UKIRT and the ING. The Chair of the Sub-Group presented the recommendations, which Science Board considered in detail. The Board agreed a set of recommendations to STFC Council which will be considered by Council on 29 May 2012. Science Board thanked the Sub-Group for their work in reviewing the telescope proposals.

Science Board continued its preparation and planning for the forthcoming Programmatic Review. The Board considered and agreed the timeline and process for carrying out the Review, and formulated some principles underlying the Programmatic Review and the need to assign rankings to projects and activities as part of the review process.

The purpose of the Programmatic Review is to define a balanced programme of excellent science within a realistic financial planning envelope. As a part of this procedure, a prioritisation for projects and science areas will be defined. This will be used in deciding whether planning provision should be made within the programme for a given area or project, and as part of the process of deciding the size of any such provision.

The Programmatic Review is thus designed to inform planning decisions and to help optimise excellent science and impact in any financial scenario (positive, negative or neutral). The level and timing of funding for any project or area may be affected by the overall funding available.

In the event of greater or smaller financial resources being available, decisions will need to take into account excellence, balance, costs, and spend profile in a way that goes beyond considering just raw ratings. Future unanticipated opportunities will also be assessed in a consistent way, when they arise over the next few years, and this will help STFC to decide whether and how they should be accommodated within the programme at that time.

Science Board discussed the Sub-Groups that it would set up to carry out the Review and the information that the Sub-Groups would request from the Advisory Panels. The outline plan of the Programmatic Review and scope of the Review will be published here shortly.

Science Board also attended the Talking Science Lecture on 19 April given by Ceri Brenner from STFC’s Central Laser Facility. The Board thanked Ceri for the enjoyable and informative talk that she gave on super-intense lasers.

The next meeting of Science Board will be on 5-6 July 2012 at Polaris House, Swindon.

Science Board met on 9th and 10th February 2012 at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire. Its business was largely peer review items, including two reports from the Projects Peer Review Panel, a number of Statements of Interest and a review of proposals for STFC Centres. The Board also visited the ISIS neutron facility.

Science Board discussed the planning for the next Programmatic Review, and in particular the timing of the review and how best to interact with the community, including through the Advisory Panels.

The Board noted that an internal STFC project management board will assist Science Board by organising practical aspects of the review, and that a member of Science Board will sit on this board. Science Board will have a more detailed discussion about how it will conduct the review at its next meeting.

Science Board noted the recent excellent work of Brian Cox, Dara O’Briain and the BBC in promoting STFC supported science.

Science Board agreed that, in the spirit of transparency and openness, it will in future, publish redacted minutes. The News from Science Board articles will continue to be published shortly after the Science Board meeting.

The next meeting of Science Board will take place on 19th-20th April 2012.

Last updated: 13 September 2016


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