Further supplementary written evidence
submitted by Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
2-3 February 2002
PARTICLE PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY RESEARCH COUNCIL
MINUTES OF THE 38th COUNCIL MEETING HELD ON 5 DECEMBER
|Present:||Mr Peter Warry CEng, FIEE, FIMechE, FCMA
|Professor Ian Halliday FRSE
|Mr Robert Barnett OBE
|Professor George Efstathiou FRS
|Professor Brian Foster FInstP
|Professor Andy Lawrence FRSE
|Professor Dewi Lewis FInstP
|Professor Keith Mason
|Ms Judith Scott CEng, FBCS
|Mr David Steeds MA, FCA
|Secretary:||Mr Jim Sadlier
||Director Strategic Planning and|
|By Invitation:||Dr Frances Saunders FInstP
|Professor James Stirling FRS
||Chairman, Science Committee|
|Professor Martin Ward
||Deputy Chairman, Science Committee|
|PPARC Staff:||Mr Jeff Down
||Head of Finance|
|Mr John Love||Director Administration
|Professor Richard Wade
|Mr Jim Gallagher||
1. The Chairman introduced himself to Council, noting his
high regard for PPARC's exciting and well-defined area of science.
He acknowledged the world-class status of the scientific programme,
and how privileged it was to be involved with Council in steering
and formulating its future scientific policy.
2. Apologies for absence were received from Mrs Mandy Mayer
(DTI); Professor Ian Ritchie; Professor John Pendry (ICSTM); and
Professor Chris Sachrajda (Southampton).
|ITEM 1||MINUTES OF THE 37TH MEETING
3. The minutes were approved as a correct record of the previous
meeting. The following matters arising were reported.
Matters Arising From Minutes
Minute 15The UK Dark Matter Programme
4. Mr Sadlier reported that plans to promote the official
opening of the UK Dark Matter project had been postponed to allow
for major construction work at the Boulby site. The campaign would
be rescheduled to coincide with the public launch, scheduled for
the summer 2002.
Minute 16The Sunday Times Astronomy CD-ROM
5. Mr Love informed Council that public demand for the second
free astronomy CD-ROM from The Sunday Times, had been high at
around 50,000 responses. Unfortunately distribution had been delayed
because of a temporary production problem. Copies would be circulated
to members as soon as available.
6. Professor Wade confirmed that VISTA had successfully completed
its Phase A design review by the end of October. He noted that
the project specification (which includes an infrared camera),
had not been altered in respect to potential overlap with NASA's
proposed PRIME space mission. A review of the management structure
had resulted in responsibility being transferred entirely to PPARC's
Astronomy Technology Centre, with a VISTA Management Committee
(chaired by Professor Wade) to oversee the project.
|ITEM 2||CHIEF EXECUTIVE'S REPORT
7. Professor Halliday reported that Stage Two of the Quinquennial
Review had been finalised by OST and would in due course be circulated
to Council. He noted that the Report had endorsed the creation
of a Research Councils Strategy Group (RCSG), and that little
else had changed from the earlier draft. The RCSG would take a
high level view on funding large, long-term projects and provide
further emphasis on cross-council activities.
8. Professor Halliday reported on the recent ESA Ministerial
meeting decision which set the members core programme contribution
at 369 ECU for this and next year. Council noted that this
was below what ESA required to cover its current programme and,
despite an additional 2.5% increase built in from 2003, represented
a cut in cash terms. Because the last Spending Review had failed
to provide any additional uplift for the space programme, the
UK had hoped for zero indexation. Professor Ward added that the
extra 2.5% was likely to be interpreted differently by ESA and
its member states, the former seeing this as a non-inflationary
increase. Professor Halliday noted that ESA must review its programme
to identify savings within this cash limited environment.
9. Professor Halliday reported that the DTI Review, now underway,
would place heavy demands on Dr Taylor (OST). As a result, he
may have to drop some of his current commitments, such as the
Gemini South opening ceremony in March 2002.
House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee Reviews
10. Professor Halliday noted that Patricia Hewitt (Minister
for Trade and Industry) had been invited to give evidence to the
Select Committee, and that it was highly likely these reviews
would encompass large facilities.
11. Mr Sadlier reported that the SR2002 was likely to offer
more freedom for the science programme, by providing a general
uplift (although specific themes could be expected as well). Dr
Saunders confirmed that negotiations were on-going with Treasury,
but warned that Treasury had always exhibited a preference for
explicitly focused and measurable areas. Professor Halliday noted
that the proposed RCSG may have a strong role in defining the
split on SR2002 fundingand that this would not guarantee
every Research Council a general or equal uplift.
12. The Council noted the Chief Executive's Report.
|CERN FUNDING AND MANAGEMENT
13. Professor Halliday recapped on the main points of the
CERN funding situation, as raised at the previous Council meeting
(approved minutes, paragraph 11). He outlined the action taken
by the Executive to fore fill these criteria and reported on the
current stance taken by the main factions at CERN Council and
that of its management.
14. He had persistently requested that CERN provide an analysis
of the damage to scientific research, for each of the options
proposed to deal with the overspend. It was apparent that broader
options to cut various experiments were being ignored on the basis
that annual membership contributions would offset such pressures.
15. The Council of CERN had accepted the need for an External
Review Committee (ERC) on finance, and this would be chaired by
the eminent Dr Robert Aymar (Director, ITER). However, there was
concern over the bottom-up process adopted in its draft terms
of reference (tabled). Council expressed a preference to clarify
the overall position rather than lose focus on the detailed bookkeeping.
It regarded the Easter deadline for the ERC to report back to
CERN Council as far to lengthy.
16. Professor Halliday noted that a stage two review would
deal specifically with the CERN management structure. He added
that he was aware of five review committees on various internal
affairs, asked to identify an overall cost reduction of 5%instead
of considering options to cut the programme. Professor Lewis reported
that he had been asked to participate in one of the internal review
committees and that he too was concerned at the direction implied
by its terms of reference. His experience indicated that this
approach was not likely to shed much light on the key factors
that created the current crisis at CERN.
17. Professor Halliday regarded Easter as a critical time
for CERN in respect to delivery of a workable recovery package.
Should this fail to happen PPARC would insist that it was time
to change CERN's senior management.
18. With respect to on-going work for LHC, Professor Halliday
reported that he had asked Dr Mianni if CERN had sufficient funds
to cover the large dipole contracts. He advised him to consider
delaying the dipole delivery rather than ignoring the financial
liability risk factor to member states. He advised Council that
if CERN proceeded regardless of a clearer understanding of the
current financial crisis, then the UK would have no choice but
to refuse approval of the budget for FY 2002-03. He regarded it
as highly likely that there would be attempts to charge the overspend
on top of the normal membership contribution, and wished to avoid
this high risk. He did however say that it was unclear whether
CERN could place the contracts regardless of an approved budget.
19. Professor Lewis (Chairman, Audit Committee) endorsed the
PPARC stand. He noted that the Audit Committee had failed to comprehend
how CERN handled the budget for the LHC. He however, also noted
concern for the PPARC management information available, stating
that it was geared more towards recording issues rather than providing
a sufficient model to manage potential risk to the programme.
20. Mr Steeds reported that he, along with professors Foster,
Lawrence and Mason, had visited CERN shortly after the September
Council meeting. CERN management had implied that PPARC must have
known about an overspend because there had been no contingency
in the budget. Professor Halliday highlighted the American review
of the LHC project, which had been assured by CERN that contingencies
had been allowed for. CERN's recent attitude to this had been
that in reality no such allowance had existed, because the project
would never have been approved if added. CERN management regarded
the overspend as negligible when compared with other international
facility projects of this scope.
21. Professor Foster asked Council to temper its deliberations
and acknowledge the proven expertise at CERN, which was capable
of delivering such leading edge physics. It was important to help
repair the management structure so that the project demands can
best be met.
22. Dr Saunders proposed that Council mandate the PPARC Executive
to approve the CERN budget only if it was based on a sensible
finance plan. She suggested lobbying other partner countries with
similar concerns at the lack of a top-down finance review. Mr
Steeds also advised that the UK (PPARC) be seen to ally itself
to other partner countries when confronting CERN management.
23. Council noted the significant cost overrun identified
for the LHC project and noted the actions taken to date to handle
|ITEM 4||UK ACCESSION TO ESO
24. Professor Halliday introduced the case for accession to
the European Southern Observatory (ESO). He reported on the steps
leading to the current proposal, how both Dr Taylor (OST) and
Lord Sainsbury (Minister for Science) had accepted that this was
the next big step for UK astronomy; the various internal and external
reviews endorsing this process and the communities demand for
8 Metre and larger facilities in the next generation of world
class astronomy. The ESO deal would provide access to 20% of four
8M telescope suites and participation on ALMA in exchange for
in kind payments by way of access to the VISTA telescope and UKIRT's
Wide Field Infrared Camera (WF-CAM), and cash based investment
over the next ten years. The community had endorsed this package
by accepting re-structuring of its existing ground based facilities
and savings in the order of £5 million to free funds in its
25. He informed Council that ESO Council had approved the
conditions of UK membership at its meeting earlier this week.
If PPARC Council approved the package it would set in motion a
series of parliamentary procedure over the next six months, leading
to the formal inter-governmental agreement.
26. Professor Wade reiterated the lengthy discussions between
him, the site directors and partners in agreeing to changes to
their science output, and allowing for the clean departure from
facilitiesavoiding potential severe frictional costs to
PPARC. He acknowledged that these efforts would provide the savings
required to optimise the ESO offer. Professor Mason congratulated
the Director, Science in delivering such an ideal package.
27. He noted that the E-Merlin running costs of £2 million
had been built into the new structure, hence providing the UK
with a world class radio astronomical facility. The E-Merlin package
had been dependant on a firm commitment from PPARC before Christmas
or the offer of capital would have been dropped.
28. Professor Stirling highlighted the Science Committee's
statement of support (Annex 3), which was the fruition of months
of discussion and debate that involved access to all the reviews.
He and Professor Ward confirmed that the ESO deal represented
a tremendous boost to UK astronomy, and was accepted by the community
on the basis of the loss of current facilities.
29. Professor Wade noted the pressure on the programme created
by the accession to ESO, and confirmed that there was no headroom
to further exploit the UK's participation. He highlighted the
efforts taken to reduce PPARC's risk, but acknowledged that the
impact of early withdrawal from the WHT was 15 million ECU.
Worse case scenarios were built-in in respect to restructuring
costs and the gradual reduction of staff over five years (ie planned
and early losses).
30. Mr Down confirmed that he was satisfied with the level
of consultation between him and the Director Science. He accepted
that there were individual areas where assumptions were open to
interpretation, but he believed that the overall package was at
an acceptable level of risk and achievable. He confirmed that
a financial expert had not produced the finance model.
31. Council discussed the various risk factors to PPARC, such
as the cost of VISTA, and agreed that a mechanism must be created
to measure performance against the agreed criteria and monitor
our status within the approved package. It was agreed that such
information be incorporated within the annual Operating Plan/Report.
32. Council agreed to the proposed conditions for UK membership
|ITEM 5||OPERATING PLAN 2002
33. Professor Wade presented the plans to produce the Operating
Plan for the three year period 2002-03 to 2004-05. The Science
Committee had been involved in reviewing the programme for the
next 10 years, based on assumptions of the resources likely to
be available. It had recognised the severity to cash spend caused
by re-structuring in the initial years but regarded this as sustainable.
34. The planning assumptions anticipated some compensation
for indexation, and recognised that if this was not so, then there
would be a need to recognise that the programme was overheating
and must seek a balance on commitments. Professor Stirling endorsed
this view, referring to the last Particle Physics Committee's
commitment to building in headroom to exploit participation in
the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Particle physics faced an accumulated
£12 million deficit by 2004. The Science Committee had recently
created a sub-panel under Dr Thomas, to discuss restructuring
its programme using the same mechanism used for the Ground-Based
programme. The Panel had already met three times and would provide
its draft report in January. Professor Foster warned that the
implications of its recommendations was likely to impact on our
relationship with existing partners, and at very least disturb
our reputation as a reliable partner.
35. A draft of the Operating Plan would be presented at the
next Council meeting, outlining the strategy adopted. It would
be to early to include actual figures, but this information would
be provided in correspondence prior to submission to OST at the
end of March 2002.
36. The Chairman noted the plans to produce the Operating
Plan and the difficulties facing the particle physics community.
He suggested that these issues be considered as part of the Strategy
Weekend meeting in February 2002.
|ITEM 6||PLANS FOR STRATEGY MEETING 2002
37. Mr Sadlier explained that the annual Strategy Weekend
provided Council with an opportunity to step away from the formal
business and focus on high level issues. He highlighted a few
examples of topical issues to consider and asked Council to propose
other subjects for discussion.
38. Council proposed topics affecting the community such as
the university/PPARC responsibility for infrastructure; defining
a meaningful PPARC industry role (perhaps using the linear collider
to illustrate it); and setting a strategic policy for space research
in relation to the balance between investment and exploitation.
39. Council agreed to forward suggestions to Mr Sadlier within
the next few weeks.
|ITEM 7||ANY OTHER BUSINESS
40. Mr Love confirmed that there were plans
to provide access to meeting papers for PPARC's respective committees
and panels on an "Extra-net" web service. This had already
been successfully introduced for the Science Committee and a similar
service would be provided for Council meetings.
41. There was no other business discussed by Council.
42. The Council noted the following papers for information:
43. Draft minutes of the November 2001 audit committee
44. Revised Council membership
45. Circulated material
||DATE OF NEXT MEETING
46. The next Council meeting will be incorporated within the
annual Strategic Weekend on 2 and 3 February 2002, at the Lydiard
House Conference Centre, Swindon.