Director's Reply to ATUC Report dated 26-27 October 2000


A) Outreach program

(i) ATUC congratulates ATNF on establishing the Graduate Student Program and the generous level of funding. We recommend that the guidelines be amended so that:

+ all currently-affiliated ATNF students be eligible to apply for the travel grants.


+ the research proposal for new students should outline the facilities expected both from the host university and from the ATNF, that would be required for the success of the project.


ATNF has not budgeted for backdating grants and is also concerned about administration and equity issues. We will help and encourage currently affiliated students to apply for travel grants either from ATNF or outside organizations.



The ATNF is happy to advise students and University supervisors on a core set of facilities required to achieve successful completion of the ATNF-related component of a student research project. This could perhaps be incorporated into the student research proposal.



(ii) ATUC endorses the goals outlined for the Outreach Program. We would like to see stronger links between Astronomy and related technology. ATUC recommends an Open Day be held at Marsfield HQ, with possible inclusion of AAO and that the Engineering Division be encouraged to participate.

There are no plans at present for a Marsfield open day. However this will be considered and reported back to ATUC.





Also, on the subject of an AT sensitivity calculator (also brought up by ATUC), Steve Tingay is just about to release a trial version.


5a) ATUC is split on the question of approving the "SETI at home" proposal. A majority (for=9, against=2, abstained=2) supported the proposal with the provisos that a) the scientific data are not compromised by introduced RFI, and b) that there is no net cost to ATNF. Concerns were voiced about unauthorised access to the data from the approved astronomical program.


ATNF engineers and OIC Parkes have been consulted on the RFI aspect, and consider that there is little risk, given the safety-net option that the SETI equipment can always be switched off if it is suspected of causing problems. The cost aspect has been discussed with Dan Wertheimer and he has agreed to pay for any costs incurred by the ATNF in operating the SETI equipment. Any observer concerned about RFI or  unauthorised data access is free to switch off the data-taking during their observing run.


5b) A majority of ATUC members (for=8, against=5, abstained=0) would like further exploration of possible science projects along the lines of the "SETI at home" model.


Dan Wertheimer has been asked about this, and would welcome proposals from the community for possible projects.


On the basis of these reassurances, and the majority decision of ATUC, Dan Werthimer has now been told that he can proceed with the construction and installation of the SETI@home equipment at Parkes.



5c) ATUC notes the PR opportunity of having astronomical images as screen-savers.


The Director notes this suggestion which has been passed to the External Relations Group for further possible action.


8) ATUC considers that in most cases there should be no problem making calibrator data openly available, but in any flux monitoring programs (where calibrators are often the target sources) agreement must be obtained from the PIs involved. This recommendation is also to be applied retrospectively.



New Business Matters:



ATUC strongly supports an increase in the Marsfield Lodge accommodation capacity.


Plans are in progress to build a fourth side to the Marsfield Lodge. This will provide an extra three single bedrooms and should help alleviate the accommodation shortage.


ATNF support for Australian institutional researchers is to be applauded and ATUC would like to suggest the following order of priority for support:

+ jointly-funded postdoctoral positions

+ encouragement of Australian university participation in the Distinguished Visitors program

+ page charge support for ATNF data publications


This will be referred to the AT Steering Committee.

ATUC submits the statistics on the status of recommendations as the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) on ATUC and ATNF management:

Meeting Total Yes No Progress N/A

Mar 1999 18 9 4 1 4

Sep 1999 17 12 2 1 2

Mar 2000 23 9 2 0 12


A new Key Performance Indicator has now been set up based on this methodology. The definitions used have been reviewed by Anne Green and Jessica Chapman and final numbers for the years 1996 to 2000 are included in the KPI report for 2000. (These differ somewhat from the original preliminary numbers given in the ATUC report.) We thank Anne Green for her assistance with this.


ATUC recommends that the 3 weeks following TAC meetings be kept free of all meetings involving the OICs, so that the observing schedules can be prepared in a timely manner.


We will try to adopt this as a guideline but note that circumstances and constraints will make compliance difficult, eg. The next ATUC meeting is scheduled 2 weeks after the TAC.


ATUC will poll users to rank usage and importance of the Parkes receivers to assist future maintenance and development scheduling.




ATUC suggests that a session be organised at the next ASA meeting to debate the scheduling mechanisms for mm-wave observing.


A proposal has been made to the SOC chair of the ASA AGM that such a session be held, and R. Norris has volunteered to organise it.


Concerning ATCA NAPAs, ATUC recommends that an acceptable level for an automatic overide interrupt on scheduled observing be a loss of up to half an hour per project, per term. In addition, the automatic trigger programs should be re-evaluated after the first term of operation. We expect the TAC to determine which programs will be uninterruptible.


At present, as discussed in the last ATUC meeting, we are receiving automatic telegrams from the GCN, but are not triggering any override observations.  We will assess the frequency and likely impact to scheduled observing, and report back to ATUC.  In fact the rate so far is low, but more sensitive satellites are about to come into operation and we expect the rate to rise.


The majority of ATUC (for=2, against=10, abstained=1) does not support the concept of paid Service Observing on the ATCA at the present time.


ATUC assigns a scientific priority of 1 to both the Wideband Continuum Correlator (single-baseline operation) and a duplicate of the ATCA Pulsar Integrator (PINT) for Parkes.


The wideband continuum correlator is progressing well and may be implemented by Aug. 2001. The unit will be more flexible and include delay tracking so can be used for deep integration as well as surveys.


We are now building the two PINTS in parallel.

A report on the science cases for both the Parkes 22 GHz multibeam and focal plane arrays is requested for the next ATUC meeting.


The issue of possible new multibeam or focal plane array systems at Parkes can be separated into two distinct projects, one at a frequency of 22 GHz or higher, and the other near 6 GHz.  Both are now briefly described in the revised AT development plans on the web, J.Caswell will outline the 6-GHz project at the 2001March19 ATUC meeting, since there may soon be a unique opportunity of cost sharing with Jodrell Bank Observatory if ATUC supports this venture.


ATUC requests clarification of the scientific opportunities for Australian use of the AMIBA facilities.


There is no plan, at present, to operate AMIBA as a facility and invite suggestions from any astronomy community for projects outside of the stated goals. See attached memo for a more detailed discussion of opportunities.


ATUC recognises the value of enhanced expertise and technology from continuing astronomy-related external contract work, particularly in view of the termination of MNRF funding in 2002.


Noted. Will be included in issues discussed at the next AT Steering Committee.

ATUC gives the following feedback to the AIPS++ manager:

+ more workshops to be arranged at ATNF


+ roadshow talks to be given at Institutions



+ demonstrations of imaging, and high impact applications to be given at scheduled meetings




+ suggest a new name for the system?




Planning the next one now.


Strategy discussed with Anne. Neil Killeen will put something together.


W have done some useful demonstrations at ATNF and individuals at ATNF are encouraged to use various areas of the system,

critical mass not yet established.


Tim Cornwell and the AIPS++ executive are more receptive now. Users committee (Lister Staveley-Smith our rep.) met in January.  We are still awaiting the official report.


ATNF is a complex integrated computing environment. We fail to see any significant benefit from further IT outsourcing. This will have a major negative impact on our scientific productivity. For example, we need to preserve the current levels of time-critical online computing support and ensure data security. The process has already had a significant negative impact on personnel productivity and resources.


As you will be aware the Government has accepted the recommendations in the Humphrey Report that responsibility for implementation (of IT Outsourcing) should be devolved to the relevant agencies. We appreciated the support from our community during this difficult period.


CSIRO will now resume responsibility for managing any outsourcing of its IT infrastructure


ATUC supports the idea of a Synthesis Imaging School in September 2001 at Narrabri. We recommend a session on single-dish observing be included


Dave McConnell will be coordinating the workshop and has suggested the week beginning 24 Sep 2001 at Narrabri. By the ATUC meeting Dave will have issued an announcement to the user community.


ATUC recommends that the possibility of installing one of the new 3.5mm InP receivers on Mopra for next winter be explored in the next MNRF mm-meeting. This action is not to interrupt the installation of the single baseline prototype system at ATCA.




We understood that this request was for two reasons:

(a)     ease of tuning compared to the old SIS receiver.

(b)     to see if the new (classical cassegrain) optics would improve the aperture efficiency.


We suggest ATUC reconsider this option noting that:

(a)     The new receiver only covers 85-92GHz at present due to MMIC and LO restrictions and this cannot be changed on a short time scale.

(b)     We have now ascertained that the new classical optics will in fact give us close to predicted performance (20J/K measured compared to16J/K predicted). So a Mopra test is not needed.


(c)     We ask ATUC to compare the relative scientific merit of going from 2 to 3 antennas on the ATCA with the advantages of having the next receiver at Mopra..


We endorse the idea of restricting support for Mopra to periods of VLBI observing and the annual period supported by UNSW.


Noted. We will implement this in the next semester.

ATUC congratulates the INT-MIT team on their progress in RFI mitigation and encourages further scientific projects in this area. For example; 20cm Parkes solar baseline ripple, 1612 MHz GLONASS.


The INTMIT group has settled on GLONASS interference near the 1612 MHz OH line as an area which both amenable to their post-correlation techniques and where there are existing projects which could significantly benefit from mitigation. Several successful runs have been undertaken, including a test run in December to image in the presence of RFI. Tests will now be conducted at 13cm as well.


ATUC feels that the web pages are in need of improvement and would be more helpful if they included: a) an on-line sensitivity calculator for all ATNF telescopes; b) more prominently-positioned deadlines and configuration availability, including nonstandard configurations; c) improvements to the web-based scheduling program (example: inputs for mosaicing, the risk of overwriting existing schedules).


We have recently appointed a new Web Master and have substantial plans for improving the web sites. The Web Master will be asked to make changes to incorporate comments (a) and (b). Feedback on comment (c) has been given to the Narrabri staff who support the scheduling programme. A report will be provided at the next ATUC meeting.


Next meeting; before Easter 2001 (e.g. March 20/21). The members recommended retaining the same format as for this meeting.