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Published by: European Southern Observatory on May 07, 2009
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05/11/2014

 
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'No.
72
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June1993
Current
ESO
Activities*
R.
GIACCONI, Director General, ESO
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1.
Introduction
The immediate purpose of ESO is toprovide European astronomers withfirst-rate observational capabilities of asize and complexity which are notachievable in the national programmesof the member states. In achieving thisgoal ESO can place European as-tronomy at a competitive level with re-spect to astronomical research world-wide. ESO's task has not been accom-plished by building the
NTT,
nor will it beaccomplished by building the VLT or theVLTI. It should be understood as anongoing process in which, from time totime specific facilities or instruments arebuilt, but the overarching role is tosupport and foster astronomical re-search in the member states and inEurope.These simple declarations have anumber of obvious consequenceswhich it may however be worth stating.The manner in which we conduct theESO programmes must be directed tomaximize scientific returns over the longrun. In building new facilities we cannotstruction. Both should be guided by sci-entific priorities and end-to-end perfor-mance considerations.The final goal must be excellence inscience. The process by which weselect facilities and instruments, observ-ing programmes and strategies must in-sure, in so far as feasible, that we canachieve it. The only process I know ispeer review of competitive proposals. Ifwe wish to achieve excellence, ESO it-self must have first-rate staff to provideservices and must be a first-rate re-search institution on its own. Finally, ifwe wish to succeed as a European pro-ject we must be willing to give higherpriority to scientific, technical andmanagerial considerations than to na-tional interests.When I was interviewed by the Coun-cil last year, I stated my views essential-ly in the same terms with a little moreemphasis on some managerial aspects.In the first five months here at ESO Ihavetried!to'appiythesegenerdprin- ciplesand
I
haveusedthemasayard sticktoassessthestatusofthepro- gramme.IhavereviewedtheVLTpro- grammeandtheChilesituationfirstbe- causetheyseemedmoreurgent.
A
numberofstudiesandreviewshave beencarriedoutwiththefollowingaim: (1)Establishgroundtruthforthe status of major technical developments andto assess the technical schedule andmanagement risks.
'
(2)
Review all aspects of ESO activitiesto assess the degree to which theyare appropriate and necessary andto determine potential staff reduc-tions and. savings in some area foruse in other areas of higher priority.
(3)
Begin the formulation of a plan whichwill result in the strengthening of cur-rent operations at La Silla and in ascientifically successful VLT andVLTI execution within currently plan-ned yearly funds.sacrifice current research which pre-pares the astronomer who will use them.
I
"Future Astronomers of Europe"
1
The operation and effective use of thefacilities are as important as their con-The European Southern Observatory is launc.hing a special programme onthe occasion of the
European Week for Scientific Culture
(November 22-27,1993), with support from the Commission of the European Communities.
*
Excerpt from the Director General's report to the
Read about the exciting essay contest for secondary school pupils in 17
ESO
Council at the meeting
in
Florence on June
and
Chile (page 9).
2-3,
1993.
 
2.
The
VLT
Programme
The major conclusions that I have ten-tatively reached from this work are asfollows:
(1)
Although there are very challengingtechnical problems ahead we see noengineering or scientific reasons thatshould prevent us from accomplish-ing the VLT programme.(2) Several technical and scientific areashave not received the degree ofattention that they require due to lackof manpower or expertise.Areas of particular concern are:
-
System engineering
-
Performance evaluation and erroranalysis
-
Operations and maintenance
-
Software architecture and develop-ment
-
Data calibration and archiving
-
Observational modes (service ob-serving, remote observing, observa-tional strategies, pointing and track-ing, etc.)
-
VLTl
(3)
The programme is delayed with re-spect to the original schedule. Againthis is due to lack of manpowernecessary to do all the preliminarystudies required to draw up the callfor tenders to industry, issue themand evaluate the responses, with therequired thoroughness. Furthermore,the manpower to follow up the workof the industrial contractors is whollyinadequate.(4) The effort expended on VLTl has notbeen adequate to keep the pro-gramme on schedule. Lack ofmanpower has prevented us to de-rive the necessary constraints im-posed on the rest of the programmeby the high accuracy required byVLTl itself.
(5)
Finally, but by no means less im-portant, there has been a remark-able lack of scientific input in theprogramme as a whole. Scientificrequirements have not been usedas drivers to technical requirementsand operational considerationsnecessary to carry out scientific pro-grammes are not used explicitly or ina documented way to set softwareand hardware designs.Remedies can be found to all of theabove and a number of actions are al-ready under way which should improvethe situation:(1) Strengthening the involvement andresponsibility of scientific staff in theprogramme should permit us to moreclearly identify critical performancerequirements and avoid unnecessaryoverdesign. To this end I am insistingon more involvement by the scien-tists at ESO in the project in the shortrun and in a strengthening of thescientific staff in the long run.
(2)
Development of a first cut vision ofhow VLT will operate to carry outscientific programmes will permit usto design into the telescopes andinstruments the operability and main-tainability standards that are re-quired. To this end we are creating aVLT science operation group withinthe VLT division led by a scientist andwe are making use of expert consul-tants.(3) More careful strategic planning ofprocurement actions could eliminateor substantially reduce the technicaland management risks involved in aprocurement of this size and com-plexity.(4) Prudent use of consultants and in-dustrial consulting services particu-larly in the system engineering areacould significantly help ESO to carryout the prime contractor respon-sibilities it has assumed. MassimoTarenghi and I have discussed withindustrial contractors the possiblemechanisms to provide suchsupport.
(5)
More emphasis on VLT operationanalysis and planning will be veryuseful to prevent a number of retrofit-ting problems downstream and inassuring that VLT once built will carrythe science it is supposed to do.Such analysis will affect the require-ments we place on instrumentationbuilders and on software developers.The starting point of this understand-ing has to be the scientific considera-tions developed under point 2 butthey will have to be fully worked outin a realistic operational setting.(6)To progress in the VLTl part of theproject, the programme will have tobe given more means, more inde-pendence, more accountability andmore emphasis. The total staff
(3)
now involved in this aspect of VLTmust be increased to reduce the cur-rent slippage in the necessarystudies and procurement actions.Recognizable scientific leaderhip isessential in this programme.
(7)
Manpower resources will have to beincreased in critical areas. Withoutadequate in-house staff the VLT pro-gramme cannot be accomplished. Itis my belief that the necessary staffincreases in the areas that are criticalcan be accomplished without in-creasing substantially either the run-out cost of the programme or theyearly budget of ESO.It is difficult at this late date in theprogramme to fundamentally changethe design of VLT or substantiallychange its scope. Furthermore, I firmlybelieve that the current programme con-sisting of an integrated VLT, VLTl andassociated laboratories, shops andfacilities should be conceived as a sin-gle entity whose realization as a wholewill place us in a competitive positionwith respect to other large telescopeprojects. Although we have examinedpossible cuts to the programme, we findthem to yield quite small financial re-turns at a disproportionate scientificcost.The alternate plan we have developedis aimed to carry out the full VLT pro-gramme as currently conceived, includ-ing a number of necessary activitieswhich were neglected in the originalplan but which are essential. It is in myopinion reasonably robust with respectto technical risks, manpower estimatesand schedules.
3.
Other ESO Activities
I
have not yet been able to review insimilar detail all other ESO activities al-though I have formed some opinions onthem through visits, in-house reviews,discussions with consultants, etc.
3.1
La Silla
Activities
It is quite clear that La Silla will remainfor the many years before the advent ofVLT the only substantial ground-basedastronomical facility available to manyEuropean astronomers.Furthermore, even after the advent ofVLT there are a number of programmeswhich could and should be done onsmaller telescopes of the 3-4-metreclass. It is not at all obvious that trans-porting these telescopes to Paranalwould be either financially, operational-ly, logistically or scientifically advan-tageous. Thus I think one cannot con-sider for the next several years (or pos-sibly next decade) that La Silla could orshould be shut down. Once this isunderstood there remains the issue ofthe scope of the work that should becarried out there.The variety of different facilities, tele-scopes, modes of operations, develop-mental programmes, collaborative pro-grammes, remote observing, and ser-vice programmes which are beingcarried out in addition to the basic oper-ations of the major facilities is bewilder-ing and constitutes a fragmentation ofeffort without a clear idea of priorities.The effort of the working group on "LaSilla scientific priorities" chaired byJo-hannes Andersen will provide importantsuggestions in this respect.This effort will be important to im-prove the quality of work at La Silla andis absolutely essential to permit us tocarry out those activities which will allow
 
us to recruit and train the staff requiredto operate effectively the VLT.To achieve these goals it is difficult tosee how the level of personnel and ex-penditure at La Silla can be reduced inthe foreseeable future.
3.2
Scientific Staff
I have mentioned in several instancesthe apparent lack of scientific input inseveral of the most important activitiesof ESO. This may be in part due to apolicy of separation between the Sci-ence Division and the VLT project andthe La Silla Operations.I hold the view that an enterprise suchas VLT cannot be done without the en-thusiastic commitment of a first-rate sci-entific staff. My concept is that all as-tronomers at ESO should be required toboth do service and carry out their ownresearch. A review of each scientistcommitment to service has been under-taken and it is clear that little more canbe squeezed out of the current staffcomplement. I therefore believe that avigorous campaign to attract and retainfirst-rate scientists is essential. Further-more, the very mechanisms for hiringand promotions must be rearranged inorder to give the scientists as a whole afeeling of involvement and responsibilityin the improvement of the situation.I have started treating the scientistsas a faculty and I will insist that they takeon the task of self-improvement. Thiscould be very greatly aided by the crea-tion of a Visiting Committee of disting-uished scientisits from both within andoutside ESO member states to examinethe overall scientific health of the organi-zation. Council has in principle ap-proved this concept.I also believe that it is important tomore deeply and broadly engage theEuropean astronomical community inplanning the scientific programme to becarried out by VLTNLTI. This isnecessary to more clearly focusESO'spriorities in the many trade-offs whichoccur during the development phase ofthe programme and to permit the effi-cient scientific use of the facility duringoperations.
4.
Final
Remarks
In my report to Council, I also in-cluded a very provisional assessment ofthe need to achieve optimal operationsat La Silla and Paranal. We are nowlooking into a number of approaches toachieve this result and will be guided bythe La Silla priorities' study. At the sametime, I am taking steps to change thepyramidal managerial structure which Ihave found at ESO and which I considerunsuited to carry out the variety of com-plex activities which ESO has under-taken.
Relations Between the Republic of ChileandESO
In 1963, the Government of the Republic of Chile andESO concluded a Treaty (Spanish: Convenio) which hasformed the basis for the formal relationship between thesignatories during the past three decades.Recently, two issues were raised by the Chilean sidewhich implied important changes in the established Treatyrelations between ESO and the Republic of Chile. The firstconcerned the access of Chilean astronomers to ESOfacilities at this organization's astronomical observatoryand the second the question of labour relations betweenESO and its employees of Chilean nationalityIn 1992/1993, a joint Chile/ESO Committee with rep-resentatives from the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairson one side and the ESO Executive and Council on theother side was constituted to look into these matters. Thejoint Committee met in Santiago de Chile on April 19 and20, 1993. During these negotiations, ESO proposed thatthe Republic of Chile might become a full member of theorganization. Both sides emphasized the efficient andmutually respectful interaction during the past 30 yearsand their wish to achieve an acceptable solution whichwould ensure ESO's continued activities in the Republic ofChile.Later in April, the Chamber of Deputies (one of thechambers of the Chilean Parliament; the other is theSenate) adopted a resolution formulated by the Commis-sion for Foreign Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies, whichformally requested the Government of Chile to re-negoti-ate the 1963 Treaty with ESO and also mentioned thepossibility that the Chilean Government could make use ofits right to revoke this Treaty.ESO was preoccupied by this development after thirtyyears of smooth collaboration with the Chilean Govern-ment and the Chilean astronomical community, takingalso into account its considerable investment in Chile. Therevocation of a host state agreement with an internationalorganization would have constituted an extreme prece-dent in international cooperation between states andinternational organizations.During the recent meeting of the ESO Council in Flor-ence on June 2-3, 1993, the relations between ESO andChile were thoroughly discussed. Council also gavespecific instructions concerning the various aspects of thefuture scientific and technological cooperation to thehigh-level ESO delegation which participated in the nextmeeting of the joint Committee, which took place in San-tiago de Chile from June 18 to 22. As a result of thismeeting, a Joint Press Release by the Ministry of ForeignAffairs of the Republic of Chile and the European SouthernObservatory, was issued in Chile on June 23, 1993 (Span-ish text) and from the ESO Headquarters (Germany) onJune 24, 1993 (English text). The English text of this PressRelease is given hereafter.The Editor

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