04 Mar 08, 11:48pm, Fernando Camilo

I will reply separately to the request here for specific feedback
about some features of the Future ATNF Operations (FAO) plan. Below I
comment on a few of the replies provided by Jessica on behalf of the
ATNF Leadership Team to some of my earlier comments.

Remote Observing with Parkes:

"It has already been established that the Parkes telescope can be operated
remotely from other locations, with an astronomer present at Parkes."

This is hardly news (I for one did this a decade ago from Marsfield).
Including the all-important 2nd clause in the above sentence, I fail
to see the relevance of this statement for the sort of remote observing
that is prominently mentioned in the FAO document.

True remote observing largely means no astronomer on site (otherwise
that astronomer might as well be the observer). And as already noted by
others, other than for Sydney-based astronomers, the main kind of remote
observing that would have added value (and that only in some instances),
is remote observing from anywhere, including my living room, not just
from the SOC in Marsfield.

"However, the extent to which remote observations using Parkes will
be possible, and the cost effectiveness of doing this, is still to
be determined."

This statement, without being explicit about it, represents a change from
the general sense of remote observing for all 4 telescopes described
in the FAO document. If this (and not the sense of FAO version 0.1)
represents the current thinking of the ALT, it is a welcome development.
In that case, however, one thing is baffling: taken at face value, the
above suggests that relatively detailed technical and costing exercises
were not completed before releasing the explosive FAO document! Was this
true only in the matter of remote operations for Parkes? One wonders.

Operating four observatories:

"The ATNF is committed to operating four [world-class] observatories
from 2012". I hate to be picky, but in the FAO document you state that
"should these measures prove insufficient in reducing the ongoing
resources required for operations, more extreme measures will be
undertaken [such as ...] close Mopra" (p 11). There goes one of the
world-class telescopes. Why not consider closing ATCA or Parkes as well?

I hardly mean this in jest. You managed to produce a 26 page document
that does not provide two fundamental bottom-line numbers: (1) how many
dollars/FTE are you aiming to save/reprioritize from ongoing operations
(year by year until 2012; this cannot be gleaned from the Decadal Plan
document)? (2) how many dollars/FTE do you estimate your plans will save?
For all anyone can tell from reading your document, the answer to (2)
is zero (or at least much less than [1]). I hope not, but hope is not
a plan.

Planning process:

"All development projects at the ATNF are conducted using an internal
project management process. This has been used for many major projects
[...]". Very well, but the major projects that you mention were far more
technical than operational in nature. I have a great deal of confidence
in the technical prowess of ATNF staff and in their ability to deliver,
when given appropriate resources. But the FAO document deals with no
less than a large-scale reengineering of ATNF. ATNF is not a receiver.
Why should the community have a priori confidence that you can manage
this job, with the resources given? Based on present evidence, I
would suggest that going forward, in order to gain the confidence of
the community, of CSIRO headquarters, of the minister for science, and
ultimately of the Australian taxpayer, you should bend over backwards to
be more open about your decision-making process, rather than providing
weak statements along the lines of "Planning documents are internal to
the ATNF and will not be distributed". Nobody is asking about details
like individual salaries and the like. Some few judiciously chosen and
reasonably well-supported numbers would be a huge improvement upon the
present "it's the vibe of the thing" approach.