2 April 2008 – UKIRT and the STFC Programmatic Review – Update 4

2 April 2008 – UKIRT and the STFC Programmatic Review – Update 4

Short-Term Plan

The following note was issued by the Director, JAC, on 2-Apr-2008. 

Dear colleagues, 

I am pleased to announce to the UKIRT community that I have reached agreement with STFC on a new short-term plan for UKIRT. The new arrangements are as follows: 

1. UKIRT will continue operating as a full-service observatory until the end of 2008. This will give me an opportunity to continue my ongoing discussions with several potential partners who are interested in joining UKIRT, some of which are very promising at present. Although some of the candidates are interested only in wide-field imaging with WFCAM, others are interested in the entire suite of capabilities: imaging, spectroscopy and polarimetry. 

2. The situation will be assessed at the end of 2008. Depending on the progress of the partnership discussions and the scientific aspirations of the likely partners, three options are currently foreseeable: 

a) UKIRT will continue operating as a full-service observatory with the UK as a 50% partner; 

b) UKIRT will convert to wide-field survey mode in early 2009 and will continue to operate with the UK as a 50% partner; or 

c) UKIRT will convert to wide-field survey mode in early 2009, the UKIDSS programme will be expeditiously completed, and the facility will then be closed. 

The last option is clearly the worst-case scenario and it is listed here for completeness; I am optimistic that a partnership arrangement can be reached for UKIRT, and that the facility will continue to operate under scenario a or b. 

3. If the situation evolves such that the choice between options becomes clear before the end of 2008, the decision date will be brought forward. 

Please note that the above arrangements assume that UKIRT’s ranking in the Programmatic Review is unchanged; the community submissions to the consultation process are currently being assessed by the ground-based astronomy panel which has been set up for this purpose. The process is described here. If UKIRT’s ranking is significantly altered as a result of the consultation, then the situation would have to be re-asssessed. 

The new plan offers two clear advantages: first, it gives me more time to establish a viable partnership for the future of UKIRT without compromising its capabilities; and second, it recognises the completion of UKIDSS as a minimum deliverable. This is a major step forward for UKIRT and its community. 

Professor Gary Davis
Director, JAC 

Links and History

Previous update 3, 22-Mar-2008STFC Programmatic Review – Update 3: User Input (22-Mar)
Previous update 2, 18-Mar-2008STFC Programmatic Review – Update 2: PPAN Feedback & User Input (18-Mar)
Previous update 1, 10-Mar-2008STFC Programmatic Review – Update 1: Important note to users from Director, JAC and Chair, UKIRT Board (10-Mar)
First note to users, 3-Mar-2008URGENT – STFC Programmatic Review and Semesters 08A and 08B (3-Mar)
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