Director's Response ATUC meeting 12 April 2002

1. ATUC reminds ATNF that if Rm94 is converted to offices, open access to printers, copiers & workstations should be maintained for short-term visitors and students.

Noted. At this stage, the plan is not to convert this office until next year.

2. ATUC is keen to ensure there is no negative impact on the science outcomes fr om either MNRF1 or MNRF2 caused by the completion of one and the commencement of the other.

Agreed. It is important that the mm upgrade be completed as soon as possible, and that MNRF2001 developments do not impinge on this. At present there appears to be no conflict, but we will continue to monitor this closely.

3. ATUC is concerned that there be an optimum match between technology advances and science outcomes from the ATNF SKA demonstrator program.

We agree that it is desirable to have science drivers for any technology development although this is not always possible, and can even result in more conservative solutions. We will monitor the rapidly evolving suite of options and try to identify the win-win opportunities.

3a)  We request that a summary of the engineering technologies that are possible under this program be provided by the project scientist before the next ASA meeting.

The next ATUC meeting includes a joint ATUC/ASKAC symposium directed at explaining international and Australian developments and options.

3b)  ATUC will coordinate with the SOC to have a session at the next ASA General Meeting to discuss the SKA demonstrator science.

Daniel Mitchel gave a briefing at the July ASA on the technology options available for SKA demonstrators. At the time of the ASA many of us were at other meetings and a higher-level presentation was not possible.

4. ATUC supports the ATNF draft strategic plan outlined by the Director, particularly that external research and development contracts are only accepted if they are relevant to the core business of astronomy.

We thank ATUC for this support, and for the help ATUC gave us in the drafting of this plan. We note ATUC's support for the overriding theme that we must not lose focus on our core business of doing first-class astronomy. This is also the policy set by the AT Steering Committee and we will certainly ensure that this theme will remain central to our strategic plan.

5. ATUC considers it unacceptable that observing schedules are not released at least one month before the start of the next term. A significant fraction of the users are based overseas and travel arrangements require a long lead time. This is a high-priority issue.

eTUC suggests that ATNF management consider schedulers other than the OICs be considered

We believe that the current proposal deadline/TAC meeting/ scheduling timetable is not too tight, and getting the schedules out a month before the new term is quite reasonable. Overseas observers near the start of the term are notified by email at or before the time the schedule is announced/released on the web.

The schedule for the Sep02T term at Parkes was delayed by the late delivery of the elevation gearboxes and unfortunately a few (local) observers received only 3 weeks' notice.

Scheduling the array is one of the key roles for an OIC.  It requires high-level decisions, and ensures that the OIC is aware in advance of any issues effecting observers or observations. We do not see it as practical or desirable that others do the scheduling.

If lead-time for observers is the critical issue, perhaps ATUC should consider earlier proposal deadlines. A simple option would be to move these forward by two weeks, to the start on Feb/Jun/Oct rather than mid-month.

6. ATUC commends Mal Smith and co-workers for the progress on RFI mitigation at Parkes and encourages regular updates on the impact upon broad-band observing at all the observatories. Noted.
7. ATUC considers it is too early to make comments on the current flexible scheduling strategy. However we recommend that careful weather, data quality and telescope usage statistics at the ATCA are acquired, to assist in improving the flexible scheduling strategy. The winter has been an unusually good one for millimetre observing (i.e. drought). In part because of this, flexible scheduling has worked reasonably well. A report will be presented to ATUC.
8. ATUC recommends that an automated response be sent to observers submitting archive requests, advising the estimated timeframe for filling the request. We suggest a full listing of all RPFITS files be made available on the web, to enable astronomers to make precise requests for archive data. The response time for an archive request depends significantly on the complexity of the request - an accurate automated response would not be realistic. Rather a policy on the response time has been agreed to, and a web engine has been developed to allow people to make their requests quite specific. See

Using this, people are able to give information to speed up the archive request, and to determine the estimated response time.

9. ATUC makes no comment at this stage on long-term future science programmes for Parkes. One factor which may influence strategies is possible involvement of Parkes in SKA demonstrator experiments.  
9a)  Regarding the proposed Mars mission tracking project, we note two concerns - receiver availability and increased downtime from wind stows.

As stated at the previous ATUC meeting, receiver availability will be severely restricted during the Mars tracking period 2003/04. This is clearly an issue requiring input from the user community.

Estimates of the increased wind loading due to the new panels, coupled with analysis of wind statistics over recent years, indicate that additional downtime from wind stows is likely to be small, though there is clearly some residual risk of degraded performance in this regard. It is estimated the new panels will be about 1 tonne lighter in total weight than the panels they replace, which will help to offset any extra wind loading. Increasing the telescope counterweight would also assist wind stability.

9b)  ATUC asks whether it is possible to mount the 10/50cm, Mars tracking and the SETI receivers simultaneously? The 10/50cm receiver will occupy a full rotator (one half of the receiver translator). The SETI receiver has never been installed in the new focus cabin, so a definitive answer in this regard is not possible at this stage. However it appears very unlikely that this receiver could share the rotator with another standard receiver package as a) the height of the SETI receiver will probably require that it be stayed across the full base of the rotator and b) with the L-band feed attached, the receiver weight will probably preclude sharing the platform with another receiver. (Of the two feeds associated with this receiver it is presumably the L-band which is astronomically the most useful - the lighter S-band feed is probably of less interest).

Thus the short answer is "probably no", but a definitive answer will not be possible until the receiver has been returned to Australia and the various mounting options studied carefully.

10. ATUC requests there be no impact on mm observing at Mopra arising from the GPS tracking proposal.

The GPS tracking contract has been handed over to the University of Tasmania. Mopra will not be used.

11. ATUC is satisfied with the format and content of the VLBI facility report. We would like the report to include proposal statistics.

Proposal statistics will be included in the report. As accepted at the last ATUC meeting, the March-April report will be detailed but the Oct-Nov report will be brief.

In order to encourage use of the VLBI facility, ATUC recommends:

a)  observers should be advised in good time of the VLBI block in which their project is likely to be scheduled
The VLBI block for each term is published in the ATNF schedules. Observers will be notified about 1 month in advance of their project being scheduled.
b)  schedule files should be requested at the time of notification of the proposal's success.
Draft schedules can be submitted any time. However, to maintain flexibility in time scheduling, final schedules will be required only a few days in advance of the observations.
c)  observers should be notified when their projects have spent 11 months in the active queue, so there is time to resubmit.
Procedures are being developed to enable such notification.
12. ATUC recommends that observer support be provided by the ATNF for the LBA at Ceduna, to the level of two people for one VLBI block annually. Ceduna support by ATNF has been provided when required by UTas, at about the level indicated. ATNF will continue to provide this level of support, if needed. However, changes in personnel and resources at ATNF may make such support difficult in a given term.
13. ATUC recommends all affiliated PhD students have a $500 publication budget during their candidature. This is instead of the 50% pro-rata page support. We support the Steering Committee's recommendation regarding the listing of student affiliations on publications. The student coordinator supports this recommendation which remains to be discussed and ratified at a management meeting. With regard to student affiliation, the existing wording (supported by ATUC) states:

"It is recommended that ATNF-affiliated students who do not list the ATNF as an affiliation in the author list include a footnote on the front page to state that:

".name.. is a graduate student jointly enrolled at the name.. and the Australia Telescope National Facility."

However, later discussions between the ATNF student coordinator and University representatives and the chair of ATUC suggested that the footnote be changed to the following form:

" is a graduate student enrolled at the university name.. and affiliated with the Australia Telescope National Facility, CSIRO."

This was in recognition of the special meaning of the term "enroll" to Universities.

Is ATUC happy that we change the wording as suggested?

14. ATUC accepts the new computer account naming and mail delivery changes but is concerned at the loss of flexibility in the forwarding of mail, and the loss of the capacity to change passwords from a unix prompt. Can CSIRO internal mail be filtered if needed?

Forwarding of email can still be done, but the helpdesk needs to set it up for each individual, as needed.

The 'csiro-all' mailing list is constructed automatically by the IT Services group in Canberra, we have no control over it. When constructing the lists, no account is taken of whether a person is a staff member, visitor, student etc. We have asked that some discrimination be applied and been told that Geoff Garrett prefers that everyone has the opportunity to read the "Monday Mail" and other messages. The reason appears to be that "visitors" in other divisions have a closer relationship with their host division - ie they spend months at a time there and become more like members of the staff.

At present the only solution appears to set up a filter on your mailbox to dump unwanted messages when they come in.

15. ATUC requests guidelines for compensating the observers whose projects are overridden by TOO and NAPA. New guidelines for the replacement of time lost during observing programs have been established and agreed by the Time Assignment Committee. A reasonable attempt will be made to replace time lost due to override by a NAPA or ToO proposal, or to equipment failure. Time lost resulting from poor weather, observer errors, or remote observing link failures will not be replaced. The full guidelines are available on the web at
16. ATUC members were polled and a list of potential new full and student members was forwarded to the ATSC. We would like to invite at least one representative of the engineering group to attend as an ex-officio observer of ATUC. The list of new members provided by ATUC have been used by the ATSC as input to the selection process. We have noted the desire for a representative of the engineering group and will provide someone for the next meeting.
17. The 7/8 Nov 2002 was suggested as the date for the next meeting. Done