UK SKA Oversight Committee and Programme Board

UK SKA Consortia Oversight Committee


Professor Mark Birkinshaw (University of Bristol) Chair
Professor Brian Ellison (STFC-RAL)
Professor Phil Charles (University of Southampton)
Dr Richard Cole (MSSL/University College London)
Professor Graham Woan (University of Glasgow)
Professor Andrew Blain (University of Leicester)

STFC Contacts:

Justin O'Byrne (Head of SKA Project Office)
Simon Haynes (SKA Project Office)

Terms of Reference

STFC is funding the UK contribution to the SKA programme pre-construction phase design consortia. The UK technology work is being undertaken by the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, and UCL, with further work contributed from the STFC laboratories at RAL, UKATC and STFC-SC. Oversight is being provided by the STFC SKA Programme Office.

In relation to the above, the UK SKA Consortia Oversight Committee is asked to:

i. Receive and review at each meeting, reports on progress with the UK elements of the programme against the approved deliverables and milestones taking into account the wider global aspects of the SKA project;

ii. Monitor the project spend to ensure that this remains within the approved budget.

iii. Maintain an oversight of the major risks to the UK SKA programme by reviewing proposals for their control and mitigation and monitoring their implementation;

iv. Assess and approve as appropriate proposals to amend the planned programme of work to change the design and technical specification of the UK SKA programme, with reference to the scientific requirements and the wider global aspects of the SKA programme;

v. Provide written reports to the STFC Executive at least once per year;

vi. Assess and recommend, as appropriate, the activities of the programme in promoting knowledge transfer in accordance with industrial strategy.

It is expected that the committee will meet at least twice per year or as needs require. Members will be appointed by STFC and STFC will provide secretarial support.

SKA Grant Reporting Guidance

The SKA is a large and complex project managed from the SKA Organisation. UK Universities and STFC laboratories report at a project level into the Organisation. Oversight for the UK activities is organised by the funding body, STFC. The Oversight Committee have been evolving the reporting structure and content since 2014. A number of templates have been implemented to improve reporting standards and monitoring that have improved the transparency and efficiency of the Committee to identify issues/risks.

Aligned with this continual improvement of the process, a series of Key Performance Indicators KPI’s have been identified, which will be implemented with the UK groups to further clarify progress in the project. These KPIs are:

  • Milestone Tracking
  • Risk Tracking
    • Number Retired
    • Monitor High Level Risks
  • Issues (Business Critical Activities)
  • Finance Tracking
    • Identify any areas of cost shift
  • Variable Requirements
    • The loss of time, resource and cash spent on elements still lacking specifications or awaiting change control

These KPIs are considered core to the progress of the project. The Groups will be asked to report to these KPIs for the oversight committee.

UK-Square Kilometre Array Programme Board (UK-SPB)


Mark Thomson STFC (Chair)
Graham Blair STFC (Vice Chair)
Mark Affonso STFC (Finance)
Adam Baker, BEIS (Government)
Philip Best, University of Edinburgh (UK Science Advisor)
Mark Birkinshaw, University of Bristol (UKSKA Oversight Committee Chair)
Carole Mundell, Bath (STFC Council)
Justin O’Byrne (STFC SKA Project Office)
Oliver Payne BEIS (Government)
Carol Watts STFC (SKA Business Engagement)
Steven Watts, University of Manchester (SKA Campus Project Sponsor)
Jonathan Pritchard, Imperial College London (UKSKASC Chair)
Ian Robson (Independent)

In attendance

Simon Haynes (STFC SKA Project Office)
Sian Giles (STFC Programmes Support)

The Project Board will seek additional external advice as required.

Project Outline

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with eventually over a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area.

Twelve countries have joined as members to the project. Approximately 100 organisations across 20 countries are participating in the design and development of the SKA. Pre-construction development of the SKA started in 2012 and will transition into construction towards the end of 2020. The design teams will provide the detailed design, implementation, R&D work, and contract preparation needed to bring the SKA’s first phase to construction readiness.

UK-SKA Programme Board

The entire UK-SKA programme will be overseen by the SKA Programme Board which reports to the STFC Executive Board and Council. The Programme Board will review and advise on matters that effect the UK’s presence in the project. Such matters may cover policy and technical decisions within the SKA organisation and the UK’s contribution to the project. This includes resource in the pre-construction phase and providing the SKA Campus buildings for the construction phase.

In relation to the above, the UK-SPB is asked to:

i. Oversee and coordinate the UK activities for the various strands that make up the UK’s involvement in the SKA;

ii. Create strong UK stakeholder engagement with the SKA Board, BEIS, FCO, Cheshire East Council and the University of Manchester;

iii. Support effective communication throughout the project, from the Consortia through to government, including the engaging parties within STFC and SKAO management;

iv. Enable the engagement of STFC staff and other stakeholders (including other Research Councils, Science Board and the wider research community, UK industry);

v. Assess the opportunities and resources available to create and implement an Industry strategy to prepare UK industry for the Construction phase tendering exercise;

vi. Monitor compliance and progress of UK contributions to the construction phase;

vii. Monitor the Treaty and HQ hosting negotiations, currently being led by BEIS with support from STFC and FCO legal;

viii. Review the project risk register, monitor risks and advise STFC as appropriate;

ix. Receive input and reports from the UK-SKA Committee chairs, Principal Investigators and work package managers on progress and finance, as required;

x. Provide written reports to the STFC Council at least once per year.

It is expected that the board will meet at least twice per year or as needs require. Members will be appointed by STFC and STFC will provide secretarial support. Chair to be chosen by STFC.

Last updated: 05 November 2018

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